South Australia - Queensland: Colonial telegraph lines.
A possible link.

As settlers in the various Colonies spread out, communications and trade became important - not so much between the Colonies but between "near-by" communities - only (say) 200 miles apart.

One classic case of this need was the perceived need to communicate between communities in the south-western region of Queensland and the north-eastern region of South Australia.

The Report of a deputation published in the South Australia Register of 26 February 1883 reflects the many facets of these needs for telegraphic communication:


A deputation, consisting or the Hon. J. Crozier, M.L.C., A. Tennant, M. P., P. Waite, J.P., and C. E. Stokes, J.P., waited on the Attorney-General (Hon. J. W. Downer acting for the Minister of Education) on Saturday, February 24. Mr. C. Todd, C.M.G., Postmaster-General and Superintendent of Telegraphs, was present.

Mr. Tennant introduced the deputation and said it was desired that a telegraph line should be constructed from some point near Farina to the south-western border of Queensland, it being left to the Government to arrange from where the line should start and where a connection with the Queensland lines should be effected. He was sure that the erection of the line would be of benefit to the settlers and to the colony, and that it would pay handsomely.

Mr. J.D. McLean said he had spent a good deal of time recently in the south-western portion of Queensland, which he found to be a splendid, well-watered country, inhabited by people whose sympathies and dealings were principally with South Australia. At present the great disadvantage was the want of proper communication and the expense of getting goods up to the stations. There was only a weekly mail and that was very uncertain, and sometimes the delays which occurred in the transit of correspondence involved serious loss.

After making careful observations at Thargomindah recently, he came to the conclusion that South Australia might secure the whole of the trade of the important district of which Thargomindah is the centre by pushing forward. The natural outlet of the country was Port Augusta, and we were supplied with a great number of cattle from this part of the interior, and it would be a step in the right direction to erect the telegraph line, which would be of the utmost importance in opening up the trade.

Innamincka appeared to him to be about the most favourable point to strike for with the line as the traffic would naturally tend to a place where there was permanent water. There was no difficulty in the way of construction, and the line would have the effect of indicating a direct route through country that was very little known. He hoped that, before long, the difficulties about boundaries between the colonies would be abolished and that federation would be accomplished, as he and others who were interested in Queensland property had a lot of bother in getting goods and stock across the border.

He thought, in the construction of telegraph lines and other means of communication, the aim should be to connect the various capitals as directly as possible, and to open up the country at the same time. At present the country in South-West Queensland was stocked with cattle, but the country was suitable for sheep, and cattle would be done away with to a large extent when the cost of cartage, which had ranged from £30 to £50 per ton, could be reduced and the means of communication improved. The South Australian merchants need not fear the competition of the Melbourne and Sydney people, as he had found he could deal with this colony to far greater advantage than with the others.

In answer to the Attorney-General, it was stated that Innamincka was thirty-five miles from Thargomindah, the nearest telegraph station in Queensland.

The Hon. J. Crozier said he was told by some of the people from South-West Queensland that if they had a good road for their teams, and could cart their stores more cheaply, they would replace the cattle they now had with sheep. He felt sure that if a proper road were provided from this country to Farina and a telegraph line erected, the stock that was now brought right down to town by road would be travelled by rail from Farina, and the movements of the stock could be better regulated to suit the owners. It would also be well to have a mail from some portion of the line to Mount Browne.

Mr. Watte said there was no doubt the erection of the telegraph line proposed would be of the utmost importance to the colony. An immediate return should not be looked for, but the line would open up a large business, and prepare the way for a railway which would probably pay well directly it was opened instead of having to make a business for itself. Innamincka would be a good place to go to, and stockmen on the way to market with cattle could call for orders, and give information as to the movements or the cattle which would otherwise not be heard of until the market was reached. We were indebted to South-West Queensland for our beef, and he believed that as they had more than we required for our own consumption, freezing establishments would be opened at the furthest points of our railways and the meat forwarded by rail to the nearest port. He knew of several South Australian capitalists who had an interest in South-West Queensland, and if they had certain means of communication instead of that which now existed it would be of immense advantage to them and the colony.

Mr. Stokes, who represented the merchants of Port Augusta, said the boundary of South- west Queensland should be looked upon as imaginary, and a great portion of the country beyond it should be regarded as, to all intents and purposes, belonging to South Australia. The trade of this country was being forced upon the merchants of South Australia, and it appeared to them that everything should be done by the Government to foster this trade. The provision of easy means of communication was of the utmost importance in this respect and, as was pointed out by Mr. Waite, the telegraph line would open a trade ready for the railway. In reference to the convenience of the squatters in that part of the country, he pointed out that at present it was almost impossible to meet the wants of the market as they arose owing to the delay in the communication, whereas if a telegraph line were erected and messages could speedily be sent to and fro, stock could be sent down in one-third of the time now occupied in arranging for their being sent. He also urged that the district would be more developed and the trade would increase and prove of great benefit to the colony.

The Attorney-General said the Government were fully aware of the importance of securing the trade of South-west Queensland, which quite naturally, from its position, belonged to this colony, and he quite believed that Port Augusta was the natural outlet. Communication with South-western Queensland was not a new idea, and the Government had always intended to have a railway line in that direction as soon as possible, and the only question now was whether the railway should be anticipated by the erection of the telegraph line or the telegraph line should be constructed at once. Personally he agreed with every word that had been said, and thought it advisable to construct the telegraph line as soon as possible, as facility of communication was very important in anticipation of the railway having a trade prepared for it.

He would inform his colleagues what had been represented to him, and add his very strong recommendation to the request they had preferred. The matter of the route was one that must be left not merely to the officers of the department but the Government of Queensland must be consulted as it would be important to have our line  connected with theirs. What weighed with him in his decision to a great extent was the fact that it would very shortly be necessary to have more mail communication with Queensland than at present, and he would advise his colleagues that it would be more economical to erect a telegraph line than to be continually increasing the expenses of mail communication.

In December 1888, the Assembly excised the Innaminka and Queensland border telegraph line (£21,000) from the Loan Bill.