South Australia - Colonial: 1858-1900.
Parliamentary discussion on Todd's Report of 1859.



Mr. Todd's last half-yearly report is appended by the Commissioner of Public Works to his official statement for the corresponding period. There is very little in the report which calls for comment, its statements being chiefly a narrative of the work done during the half year. Owing to the delay which has occurred in the publication of the report, some additions to our means of telegraphic intercourse referred to as prospective have become realized facts - as for instance the opening of the line to Glenelg. The benefits then anticipated as to be enjoyed in a month or five weeks have been conferred upon the public, and by means of the station at the Bay, "the other colonies, through the medium of the newspapers", have been placed in possession of the principal items of news brought by the mails earlier than formerly. We think Mr. Todd a little overstated the anticipated advantage when he wrote 'at least half an hour earlier" not having duly estimated the force of competition and whipcord. But the opening of the Glenelg line is unquestionably a boon to the neighbouring colonies; and by enabling our contemporaries to dispense with the six mile race will do them also a service.

With respect to other arrangements for facilitating intercolonial telegraphic communication, Mr. Todd says:— 'The increasing pressure on our intercolonial telegraph has induced me, in a letter recently addressed to you, to urge the necessity for a second wire to Mount Gambier and the Border without delay; and I need here only repeat, in proof of the urgency of the want, that, on the arrival of the Salsette's mails, the telegraph was employed, almost exclusively, in the transmission of messages to Melbourne and Sydney for twenty-two consecutive hours; our intermediate stations being virtually closed, except for a short interval of one hour. The New South Wales Government have, as you are aware, invited tenders for a second wire between Sydney and Albury; and Mr. McGowan informs me that a sum will be placed on the next Estimates for an additional wire through from Albury, via Melbourne, to the South Australian frontier. The second wire I have asked for I propose should be continued from Strathalbyn, via Wellington, to McGrath's Flat and the Coorong where it would join our present line. This would necessitate about seventy miles of new line, but would avoid the lakes. The cost of the work, including seventy miles of new line, I estimate at £6,600; and, if carried out, the direct northern line to Sydney might be deferred a few years, or until the New South Wales Government are prepared to proceed with their division. I am as much in favour of the northern route as ever, but we must have immediate relief. We do not like the idea of deferring the northern line intended to connect this colony with New South Wales by an independent route; and we are glad that the Estimates as passed make provision for both works. The Commissioner states that 'the first moiety of cost of a new intercolonial line, to start from Kooringa and form a junction at our border with the portion thereof to be constructed by the New South Wales Government, has been voted; and that, half the estimated expense of perfecting our present south-eastern inter-colonial communication, by mounting a second wire, has been provided.'

The telegraphic works executed in the colony during the half-year were not very considerable, but even these appear to have been carried on in anticipation of the appropriation of funds to pay for them. The Commissioner of Public Works states that the Estimates passed on the 3rd August made provision 'for the completion of the northern line of telegraph, stations included, as far as Kooringa; the erection of stations on the south-eastern line, at Mount Barker and Strathalbyn; and that the House has set apart funds for the construction of a telegraph to Glenelg. Now the last-named of these works, as we have intimated, is in actual operation; and with respect to the other two it appears that vigorous progress was made long prior to the vote of the money. Mr. Todd says:

Mr. Todd reports very satisfactorily of the working of the previously existing lines with the exception of the submerged portion of the intercolonial line. On this subject he says: — "I am glad to have the honour to inform you that the lines under my charge have, during that period, worked satisfactorily — with the exception of two interruptions on the south-eastern and intercolonial division, one being occasioned by the carrying away of the cable under Holmes's Channel; the cause of the second I have never satisfactorily determined, but believe it to have been due to some derangement in the connections at Guichen Bay. With a view to avoid a recurrence of the accident at Holmes's Channel, arrangements are now being perfected for carrying a wire over the channel in two spans for which purpose I am having a strong hardwood pile driven in the rock in the middle of the stream, to which a spar of 67 feet high is securely fastened with iron clamps; a tall pole of 60 feet is planted on either side the channel, so as to afford sufficient head room for barges passing clear of the wire.

The Commissioner of Public Works calls particular attention to that portion of Mr. Todd's statement which indicates the number and value of the messages transmitted during the half-year. The object of this notice is to illustrate the readiness with which the public avail themselves of the advantages of telegraphic communication placed within their reach. The rapid increase of the use of the telegraph is indeed noteworthy. The value of the messages transmitted during the half-year embraced in the report we are now considering is much more than double the value of the messages transmitted during the preceding half-year. The intercolonial line, it must be remembered, was opened in the first month of the earlier half-year, so that the increase is clearly due to the greater extent to which existing facilities of intercourse are used, and not to the extension of telegraphic facilities to new districts. The following table shows the receipts from the public for the use of the wires during the half-year, distinguishing the amounts received during each month on each line of telegraph:

Month Receipts
  Port line North line South-eastern line Inter-colonial Total
January £74 1s 0d £45 0s 6d £61 7s 3d £329 2s 5d £409 11s 8d
February £73 10s 3d £43 5s 7d £61 0s 7d £324 8s 11d £410 6s 4d
March £75 10s 6d £53 13s 1d £76 13s 11d £382 11s 1d £487 6s 7d
April £66 13s 7d £39 2s 0d £57 16s 9d £213 14s 10d £361 7s 3d
May £84 8s 9d £55 17s 1d £42 12s 0d £286 3s 3d £421 0s 1d
June £60 10s 4d £57 0s 4d £91 5s 9d £328 11s 3d £637 3s 8d
  £393 10s 0d £387 6s 1d £390 15s 3d £1,546 1s 9d £2,617 15s 7d
Note: values are as accurate as possible but the original was very blurred - "all pretty close".

It is necessary to remark that the receipts in May were seriously affected by the long suspension of the communication — amounting on the two occasions to ten days — which unfortunately occurred during that month.

In addition to the sums named above,the value of messages on the public service, and therefore sent free, is estimated at £434 11s. 3d. and the sums paid in the other colonies for messages to South Australia was £1,694 0s. 7d., making a total of £4,745 17s. 5d. as the entire value of the telegrams transmitted during the six months.

The number of the messages was 30,314 which were distributed throughout the half year as follows:

The only topic of interest in Mr. Todd's report still remaining unnoticed is the proposal to connect Kangaroo Island with Adelaide by a line of telegraph. On this topic Mr. Todd writes as follows:

The cost of extending the telegraph to Kangaroo Island has been reported on by me in May last, and I have since submitted an offer from Messrs. Brown and Macnaugton to dispose of the surplus cable after connecting Tasmania with Cape Otway and to deliver the same in the Omeo at Kangaroo Island, lending the necessary paying-out gear, for £200 a mile. With reference to the expediency of this work being effected, I may state that it would give information of the arrival of the mail some twelve hours sooner than can now be done and would also afford to persons in the other colonies an opportunity of forwarding advice per the homeward mail for more than thirty hours after the mail's departure from Port Phillip Head. Before the cable is laid, an accurate survey of the sea-bottom should be made and the points of landing determined. I may explain — as there appears to be some misapprehension on the point — that, in the event of the telegraph being extended to Kangaroo Island, it would not be necessary for persons to have resident agents on the island or that agents should meet the mail steamer in order to render the Telegraph Station there available. Messages brought by the mail for transmission from Kingscote would be addressed to the "Telegraph Clerk, Kangaroo Island" and could be made up in a separate bag, and landed immediately on the arrival of the mail steamer; the charges on such messages being collected from the authorized agents in Adelaide, or in England, for which arrangements are being made.

We still await information of the feeling of the postal contracting Company in reference to the delivery of the mails in Holdfast Bay in order to be able to determine on the desirability of extending the telegraph to Kangaroo Island. We have seen no reason to alter our repeatedly expressed conviction that the interests of all the colonies, as well as of the P. & O. Company, would be benefited rather than injured by that deviation from the conditions of the contract. Mr. Todd's suggestion of a mode of dispensing with the necessity of sending agents to Kangaroo Island — a necessity which it is believed many mercantile as well as newspaper firms would be subjected to — reminds us of the suggestion attributed to Marie Antoinette, who, when told that the people were starving for lack of bread, asked why they could not eat French rolls. Mr. Todd's plan, intended to remove the necessity of having agents at Kangaroo Island, requires the presence of agents in England — an arrangement more difficult to make, and probably more expensive in its execution, than that which he endeavours to avoid.