Australia - Pacific Cable Board: 1902.
Operational aspects of the Pacific Cable.



On 4 June 1903, "a letter was received from the Pacific Cable Board by the Postmaster-General suggesting that steps be taken to bring the advantages of the Pacific cable before the public. The Postmaster-General stated that the matter requires very careful consideration in view of the fact that the Commonwealth, while having a proprietary interest in the Pacific cable, has also an agreement with the Eastern Extension Company.

Sydney Morning Herald
20 July 1903

The canvassers for the Pacific Cable have called the attention of the Postmaster-General to the methods adopted by the Eastern Extension Company for retaining their share of cable business to and from Australia. In some cases it is stated the company sends out reply messages in duplicate, replies are telephoned to those patrons who are connected with the telephone exchange, and other methods are resorted to by the company to maintain its business. Mr Drake has therefore decided to ask the Deputy Postmaster-General in each State to recommend what in his opinion should be done to place the Pacific cable on the same footing with business men as the Eastern Extension Company's service.

Sydney Morning Herald
3 October 1905.

"Nothing has yet been done by the Federal Government in regard to the Pacific Cable matter. The Prime Minister has received the report of the Pacific Cable Conference, and noted that there was a decision as to a conference between the representatives of the Pacific and Eastern Extension cables. He knows nothing as to whether that conference has yet been held, therefore he does not propose to take any further steps for the present to bring the ratification of the Eastern Extension Company's agreement before Parliament".



The Queenslander of 7 October 1905 noted that "in a speech before the Mebourne Chamber of Commerce some little time back, the Australian manager of Reuter's Telegram Agency stated that he had sent a message from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (at urgent rate) via the Pacific Cable and, after allowing for difference in times, it was shown to have reached London in two and a-half minutes; further that his messages at ordinary rates were frequently transmitted within the hour".

Sydney Morning Herald
30 June 1905

As showing the stanch support given by the people of New Zealand to the State-owned cable (via the Pacific), the annual report of the Post and Telegraph Department gives the following comparative figures regarding the messages sent last year (1904) by the two routes:

September 1912: A Parliamentary paper on the reductions in the cable rates to Australasia states that in the first quarter 411,450 words were sent at the deferred rate, while the number sent at the normal rates howed an increase in volume. The press business was not affected but about half had been sent at the deferred rates. The Pacific Cable Board's profit for the year was £37,035 leaving the deficit £40,498. The report emphasises thc necessity for future Australian and Canadian mail contractsproviding for calls at Fanning Island.

Melbourne Argus
25 May 1923:

The Pacific Cable Board has written to the London Chamber of Commerce stating that it cannot at present reduce the cabling charges between Great Britain and Australia because the line is working to full capacity 24 hours per day and reduced rates would naturally increase the traffic overload on the line and produce serious delays.

In the letter it is pointed out that the Board has not obtained any benefit from the recent reduction in cross-Atlantic traffic. The value of deferred weekkend rates is proved by the fact that this class of traffic is now twice as large as the traffic at ordinary rates. A considerable proportion of traffic at reduced rates is of a commercial character.


Hobart Mercury
10 August 1903

The Pacific Cable is proving a costly scheme to Australia. £30,000 has to be voted by the Commonwealth to meet of the loss on the cable to date and now the London board is trying to debit the Federation with an additional £5,400 because apparently it considers that the federal terminal rate for cable messages of 6d a word is too high.

Correspondence laid on the table of the Senate shows that the Board has urged the Federal Government to reduce this rate to 2d a word. The Postmaster-General replied that the Commonwealth had already sacrificed £12,700 per annum to establish a uniform terminal charge and that, if the proposed reduction was made, the Eastern Extension Co would have the opportunity of cutting down their through rate by 3d a word - thus effectively preventing the Pacific Cable from gaining any advantage from the loss which the Commonwealth States alone would suffer on business by both routes. From this it is evident that Senator Drake does not wish to further lower the European cable charges at present.

The Prime Minister protested against the proposal to debit Australia with the £5,400 referred to but there is nothing in the papers to show whether the board has withdrawn this demand.


The annual Pacific Cable returns show that the net revenue for the year ending March 1907 was £113,516 and the expenditure £90,895 while interest and sinking fund absorbed £77,544. The result is a deficiency of £54,923 on the year's working.

In September 1904, it was reported that the accumulated loss on the Pacific cable for the three years it has been working or under construction has been £268,000, of which Australia's share is £90,000. It is estimated that the loss for the year 1904-5 will be £89,000.

Year to 31 March 1908 - report from London for all aspects


The Pacific Cable Company announced a record year in 1920. Receipts for the past year amounted to £111,723 leaving a credit balance of £17,956. The contributing States will make good the sum of £59,558. The Press matter which came over the cable increased by 30,870 words. (August 1910).

The Pacific Cable Board, after placing £353,000 to the credit of the reserve and renewal fund, has a surplus of £10,433. The cable carried messages aggregating 9,000,000 words of paying international traffic and the net receipts were £64,298. Both these figures are records. (November 1920).

The financial results for the Pacific Cable for the year ended March 31,1922 disclosed a net profit of £38,3058. 14s. 10d. This figure was arrived at after providing for working expenses, annual contribution to renewal fund, and interest on loan. In addition to the usual annual contribution of £20,000, an additional contribution of £102,600 was made to the renewal fund to replace any loss by depreciation and securities in which the fund is invested and to strengthen the position of such fund for future contingencies. After deduction of the usual sinking fund instalment of £17,544 18s from the net profit of £38,306/14/10 a surplus of £20,781/16/10 resulted, the Commonwealth proportion of such surplus being £6,920/12/3. No distribution of this surplus, will, however, be made as it must be applied in reduction of the outstanding balance of the original loan of £2,000,000, in accordance with the Pacific Cable Act 1901. The Commonwealth's concurrence in the proposal of the Pacific Cable Board to lay two new cables—one between Suva and Auckland, and one between Southport and Sydney—was given in October 1922 and later information in the press shows that contracts have been let for the work.

Adelaide Register
28 March 1924

The Postmaster-General says in his annual report: For the financial year ended March 31, 1923, the Pacific Cable Board has reported that "In view of the strong reasons for duplicating the northern cables as soon, as possible, the board are of opinion that the surplus receipts should be employed to strengthen the reserve and renewal fund, the resources of which are not yet adequate for the purpose". As a result of this policy, the whole of the surplus receipts have been transferred to the reserve and renewal fund, making a contribution to that fund of £208,753 compared with £141,950 for the year 1921-22. For 1921-22 there was, however, also a surplus of £20,761, which was applied in the reduction of the original loan of £2,000,000. The year 1922-23 therefore shows an improvement over the year 1921-22 to the extent of £46,042.

Queensland Times
28 October 1926

LONDON, October. 27 The terms of settlement of the Pacific cable dispute provide for the reconstruction of the board on a more satisfactory system of electing its chairman and a sounder method of the allocation of profits. It is understood that the last mentioned condition is to meet the objection of Canada to the utilisation of reserves for new works.

Brisbane Courier
14 January 1928


For the year 1926-27 traffic receipts of the Pacific Cable Board amounted to £467,063 and with £11,238 from other sources, total income was £478,302. Expenditure aggregated £300,018 so that receipts exceeded ordinary working expenses by £178, 284. After taking into account the annuity of £27,545 payable to the National Debt Commissioners in respect of interest and repayment of capital, a surplus ot £100,739 remained which has been voted to the reserve and renewal fund in compliance with the provisions of the recently adopted Pacific Cable Act. Returns from traffic exceeded those of 1925-26 by £13, 468 while expenditure was higher by £21,031.

This increase was partly due to the appointment of two managers, higher charges for rentat Melbourne and other items. Total assets of the reserve and renewal fund at the end of the financial year amounted to £356,120. Expenditure in connection with the duplication of the cables between Vancouver Island and Fiji amounted to £2,131,300.

The duplication of the board's cable sytem was completed during November 1926 and the directors write that the speed at which new cables can be worked surpasses all original anticipations. The capacity as guaranteed by the contractors was 600 letters per minute but the actual speed obtained during test was more than twice that figure, and it is anticipated that this could be increased as the growth of traffic demanded.

During the year more than 12,000,000 words of international traffic were transmitted or 120,000 words above the total of the previous term. In addition to this traffic, approximately 3,700,000 paying words were carried between Australia and New Zealand and between those Dominions and the Pacific Islands. Reductions in the tariff for messages had been carried out during the year.