New South Wales - Colonial: 1857 - 1900.
Regulations for the first lines.

On 8 February 1858, the Department of Lands and Public Works announced that the Governor-General, with the advice of the Executive Council, has been pleased to establish the following Regulations fixing the Fees to be charged foe the transmission and delivery of messages by the lines of Electric Telegraph and providing generally for the management of the said lines:



1. Messages must be written with ink, in a clear and legible manner, on the forms provided for that purpose, and must bear a proper date and address; the signature of the sender, in each case, being required in authentication of his message, and as subscribing to the conditions imposed. Persons bringing messages written on plain paper will be required to copy the same on the proper official form; or should any person bringing such message be unable to write, the clerk will copy the message on the official form, and, after reading it to the bearer of the message, will obtain his or her signature or mark to the said copy. The original will, in all cases, be kept; but the Government will hold itself free from responsibility with respect to the correctness of such copy.

2. As a general rule, all messages are to be prepaid; but, in cases of emergency or distress, persons may be allowed to send messages to be paid for by the receiver.


Between Sydney and the
South Head
The charge for messages not exceeding ten words will be One Shilling and Sixpence, and for every ten words, or portion of ten words additional, One Shilling.
Between Sydney and
Not exceeding ten words, Two Shillings, and for each ten words, or portion of ten words additional, One Shilling.
Messages for the Press charged at the rate of 1d. per word.
Between the South Head
and Liverpool
Not exceeding ten words, Two Shillings and Sixpence, and for each ten words, or portion of ten words additional, One Shilling.
The above charges include delivery within one mile from the office; over that distance, porterage or cab hire will be charged, and boat hire on messages to be delivered on ship board

4. Where an immediate reply to a message is required, the sender of such message is requested to append the word "reply". The messenger charged with the delivery of the message will then be directed to wait ten minutes for the reply, in order to facilitate its transmission to the sender of the message.

5. Messages can be transmitted in cypher at 50 per cent above the ordinary rate of charges. Cypher words must not consist of more than three syllables.

6. In order to provide against mistakes in the transmission of messages by the Electric Telegraph, every message of consequence ought to be repeated, by being sent back from the Station at which it is to be received, to the Station from which it is originally sent. Half the usual price for transmission will be charged for repeating the message. The Government will not be responsible for mistakes in the transmission of unrepeated messages, from whatever cause they may arise; nor will the Government be responsible for mistakes in the transmission of a repeated message, nor for any delay in the transmission or delivery, nor for non-transmission or non-delivery of any message, whether repeated or unrepeated, to any extent above £5.

7. Except in cases of emergency, illness, etc., or messages on the service of the state, messages will be transmitted in the order in which they are received, and all messages will be held strictly confidential.

8. If, from any circumstances, a message is not sent within one hour after being received, the clerk is instructed to give the person sending the message information of the fact, with the reason of the delay; it will then be optional with the person to withdraw such message, and receive back the amount paid.

9. No application for copies of messages, after delivery, will be entertained, unless at the request of the person to whom the message is addressed; and in all cases the superintendent will require satisfactory reasons for application.

10. Duplicates of messages will be kept in the strict charge of the superintendent for the space of two years, after which they will be burned in the presence of the superintendent".


Penalties for wilful damage to lines.

The Electric Act included penalties consequent on the wilful cutting or obstructing the working of the lines of telegraph.

Wilful cutting of wire a misdemeanour.

Every person who shall wilfully cut or otherwise sever any wire or cord or so damage any part of the works connected with any such line of communication as to prevent the passing of the Electric current be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be liable to fine or imprisonment with or without hard labor at the discretion of the Court adjudicating.

Penalty for wilful obstruction or injury.

Every person who shall wilfully obstruct the making of any works under this Act or injure the same or interrupt or impede the use of any line or the transmission of any message along any line shall on conviction before any two Justices be liable to a fine not less than five pounds nor more than one hundred pounds or to be imprisoned with or without hard labor for any period not exceeding six months.

Offenders may be apprehended without warrant.

Any person whoever may without warrant apprehend any other person found against any of the provisions of the last two preceding Clauses of this Act and deliver him to some Constable or convey him before some Justice to be dealt with according to law. And every person obstructing or resisting any other person while acting in execution of any of the provisions of this Act shall on conviction before any two Justices be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds or to be imprisoned with or without hard labor for any period not exceeding two months.

Damage to be made good in addition to penalty.

Every person causing damage to any line of communication or any works connected therewith although he may have been fined or been sentenced to imprisonment under this Act shall also be liable to make good such damage the amount whereof shall be determined by the Justices imposing the penalty or sentencing to the imprisonment and such damage if not paid on demand may be viewed in manner provided by the Justices Act of 1850.


Trees for telegraph poles.

A later Act - date unknown - related to the cutting down of trees on private land for use as telegraph poles. Details of this act cannot be located (yet). Nevertheless, the Riverine Gazette of 24 December 1881 describes a legal appeal based on the details of the Act:


A case of some interest was heard at the Police Court Deniliquin Friday last in which a selector, near Deniliquin, named Robert Vagg was summoned by McCambridge and Spence, contractors for the erection of a telegraph line between there and Salt Creek, for preventing their man cutting telegraphic poles on defendants land.

Evidence of the offence was given, from which it appeared that defendant, who was not aware of the law, treated plaintiffs' man a trespasser and threatened to shoot him if he did not clear off. No other timber being available, the work had to be stopped.

Some objections were raised by defendant's attorney, but were overruled. This ruling will probably be tested in the Supreme Court. It was pointed out that, under the Act, any authorised person could cut imported trees on gentleman's parks for telegraph poles, there being no reservation in the Act.

The Police Magistrate thought the Act was not intended to apply to the present state of things, when very little land was alienated. Although a hard case, the offence was proved, and he must fine defendant the minimum penalty of £5".