Western Australia - Colonial: 1869-1900.
Administrative aspects.


Sunday work.

The Western Australian Times of 11 March 1879 reported the following exchange regarding Sunday work:

"Sunday work in the Post Office and Telegraph Department.

A short time ago, the clergy of the various Protestant denominations, forwarded a memorial to His Excellency the Governor, praying that he would take steps to obviate the necessity for the clerks engaged in the Post and Telegragh department being employed on Sundays. The memorialists, have received the following reply, addressed to Bishop Parry, who was one of the subscribers to the petition:

"Colonial Secretary's Office, Perth, Feb. 28th
My Lord, I am directed by His Excellency the Governor to acknowledge the receipt of a memorial, without date, signed by your Lordship and some of the clergy of the colony, praying that His Excellency will give instructions that the Post Office at Perth and the seaports shall not be open for the delivery of letters to the public during any portion of Sunday and that the transmission of messages at the Telegraph Offices on that day, may be limited to those of absolute necessity.

In reply I am directed to inform you that His Excellency would be very glad, if it were possible, to relieve all the officers employed in the different Post Offices from the necessity of performing any work on a Sunday but that this has been found impossible and the present arrangement has been adopted, after several trials, as that which affords the greatest amount of necessary convenience to the public, with the least amount of Sunday work to the officials. I am to add that His Excellency is not aware what are the arrangements for Sunday postal work in the Australian colonies, but that letters are sorted and delivered in every post town in England on the Sunday morning, the London post offices being alone excepted from this duty.

With respect to the Telegraph Offices, His Excellency observes that you do not ask that they should be closed on a Sunday, but that the transmission of messages shall be limited to those of necessity. His Excellency is not aware of any country where such a rule has been established and does not see how it would be possible to ensure its being fairly and properly carried out. His Excellency regrets therefore that he is unable to comply with the memorialists' request.

I am, etc., Laurance S. Eliot, for Colonial Secretary".


In an Address-in-Reply to the House on 14 July 1896, Mr Illingworth noted, amongst many issues:

"Let us turn now to that wretched concern which we term the Post and Telegraph Office, and about which the curses of the public have been loud and deep.

It is unfortunate that while complaints against the administration of the department have been so strong and general that the Postmaster-General should have stated that he despised the criticisms of the public and the press.
[The Premier: Oh, no, no.]

But I say yes.

[Mr. Simpson: The statement was made in every paper in the country.]
[The Premier: But there were no reporters present.]

I affirm that it was made; it was made in the presence of hundreds of witnesses and I defy the Government to dispute it.

The incapacity of the department causes serious loss to the people. I have received a letter with which I shall not now trouble the House giving a case in point. A man who had been advised that a registered letter awaited him at the Post Office made application at the office and was told that there was no letter for him. He was advised by telegram that the letter had been duly posted. He made a second application and was again told that there was no letter. He produced the telegram and demanded that there should be a search; then the letter which contained money was found, but too late for the purpose of the recipient, and the result was that he lost £150 — a very serious loss to a working man.

This is a sample of the way in which hundreds of pounds have been lost by the public during the year. In fact, what this country has suffered through the laches of the postal service is beyond description. If there was any possibility of the department being materially altered, we might hope for better things, but all the adverse criticism has failed to make any impression upon the Minister, who supports the Postmaster-General, while the department is thoroughly disorganised. There is not a single branch of the department that is not a hopeless wreck and the public, who ought to be aided and assisted by the Post and  Telegraph Offices, are injured by the mismanagement of the department".


The West Australian of 7 November 1896 noted:

"In Mr. E. W. Snook, who is known officially in the department as Chief Inspector of Telegraphs, the Government have a very capable and efficient officer. Mr. Snook is now on an official visit to the eastern colonies, and we understand that before his return he will be known under a different designation to that of Chief Inspector of Telegraphs. The intention is to confer on him the title of Superintendent of  Telegraphs, under Mr. R. A Sholl, the General Superintendent of the Department. It is probable that this recommendation will be laid before the Executive Council for approval at its next meeting".

On 21 November 1896, "The following change has been made in the designation of Mr. E. W. Snook - to be now Superintendent of Telegraphs instead of Chief Inspector of Telegraphs".