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including Queensland, which, in my judgment, for good reasons stands aloof) pay annually about £70,000 a year for the privilege of telegraphing to England at the rate of 4s. 9d. a word.
ENGLAND DOES NOT CONTRIBUTE A FARTHING.
It will naturally be asked, what share does the rich and populous Mother Country contribute towards this "benevolence” or blackmail, as some people would call it. The answer is, not one farthing. Although Englishmen enjoy the benefit, such as it is, of the 4s. 9d. word rate, although the British Government has the meanness (I wish a more courteous term could be found) to telegraph despatches at a specially low State rate--2s. 7d. a word, I think-yet that Government has always obstinately refused to pay one farthing of the subsidies enjoyed by the companies. The English Government witnesses with apathy the Australian Governments paying £70,000 a year in cable subsidies to secure cheap communication with England, but would not contribute a sixpence to prevent the increase in the cable rates which took place in January last. Of course, the colonies are helpless. Sir John Pender would, if the Australian Government had proved stubborn, have cut off their cable communication with the outer world as remorselessly as the collector cuts off the water from the premises of a defaulting ratepayer. He could easily have raised the rates to £1 per word, and thus have brought them to reason. They, the Colonial Governments, have in my opinion behaved nobly, from first to last. They took the statesmanlike view that, in the peculiar situation of Australia, divided from the rest of the civilised world by thousands of miles of water, cable communication was essential to the prosperity and progress of their country; and they accordingly persuaded the taxpayers to lay this heavy burden upon themselves and their posterity. But England—the English Government—has been content to reap a harvest where others have sown, and to allow young and struggling colonies to pay part of its own necessary expenditure incurred in communicating with British possessions. This is not very generous on the part of a Government with more than £3,000,000 of postal surplus, dealing with colonies which at all times have the utmost difficulty in making both ends meet, which are now passing through a severe financial crisis, and which have no postal surpluses to fall back upon. Not the slightest assistance, moreover, was given by the British Government to the Australian Ministers in their efforts to maintain the 4s. rate, which was in force until the 1st of January last. Deputations attended at the Colonial Office, and the Agents-General made urgent representations on the subject; but in vain. To crown all, the Indian Government, finding that an additional 9d. a word was received, tried har to increase the charge for the use of its land lines
INDIA'S EXACTIONS FROM AUSTRALIA.
It should be remarked that India has never behaved with sisterly consideration to Australia in this matter. I recollect, when sitting as representative of an Australian Government at the Berlin Telegraph Conference of 1885, joining in a petition to India for a reduction of the transit rate charged by her on messages sent over her territory between Europe and Australia. The transit rate was 7]d. a word, though the Indian internal rate was only id. or 1d. a word. India refused, on the ground that the Eastern cable companies were making such large profits, but offered to reduce her charge if they would reduce theirs.
PRESENT CHARGES FOR CABLE COMMUNICATION.
Before going further, I wish to direct attention to the rates paid for cabling from England to various parts of the world, as set forth in the 66 Postal Guide"
. d. s. d. Aden
3 9 Algeria
6 2 Australia.
3 10 to 4 2
(Now 4s. 9d.) Queensland
5 4 and 6 2 British South African Company's Territory
1 0 to 1 9 Cape Colony,
8 11 Chili
6 2 to 8 10 China
6 10 to 8 8 9 East Coast of Africa 7 9 to
9 to 8 10 Egypt
1 7 to 2 Guatemala
4 3 Guiana (British)
12 2 Guiana (Dutch)
9 10 India
8 0 to 10 Mexico
1 9 to 2 8 Natal
8 9 to 8 11. Newfoundland
1 0 Persia.
1 6 to 2 5 United States
1 0 to 1 8. West Indies
9 10 West Coast of Africa. 5 11 to 8 10
One is at once struck with the bewildering variety of charges,.. only roughly graduated according to distance, in the above list, which is merely a portion of the complete one.
And it is difficult tow reconcile such charges as 1s. for New York and 9s. 10d. for the West Indies; or 6d. for Turkey in Asia and 1s. 7d. for Egypt; or 3d. fox
Algeria and 10d. for the Canary Islands; or 4s. 9d. for Australia and 8s. 10d. for the West Coast of Africa.*
In my opinion three cable zones should be instituted. In the first, which should include all Europe, the rate should be 1d. per word. In the second, which should include Egypt, India, Persia, and Afghanistan, the charge should be 6d. a word. In the outer zone the charge should be ls, per word for the present. With these three items in our tariff the cables would on the whole yield a far greater revenue than at present.
DIFFICULTY IN OBTAINING STATISTICS.
A comprehensive survey of the gradual growth of our cable communication with the colonies will doubtless constitute a fascinating chapter in the history of the British Empire. At present, however, it cannot be written. Our postal officials must or ought to have the necessary information ; but, like Hudibras with respect to his wit, they are very shy of using it.” Not only do they decline to reveal the facts, but they have indignantly protested against my asking them to interfere with private cable companies' concerns. On this fact I need only remark that the Submarine Telegraph Company (which owned the cable from England to the Continent) used to give regular accounts of the traffic; while since the Post Office got possession of the Company's lines, the statistics have been withheld.
I have, however, contrived to ascertain the facts with regard to India and Australia, and they well repay perusal.
GROWTH OF AUSTRALIAN CABLE BUSINESS.
I must here recall the fact that the rate to Australia was formerly "9s. 7d. a word. Two years ago, after much pressure, the Companies consented to lower it to 45., on condition that the Australian colonies agreed to bear half the loss of revenue expected from the reduction. "This guarantee the colonies (with the exception of New Zealand and Queensland) entered into, but, as stated, the rate has since been raised to 4s. Id.
The following table, showing the Australian business of the Eastern Telegraph Company and its allies during the past few years, affords most striking evidence of the vigour and vitality that characterise the trade of the Island Continent. And when we remember that the resources of that vast country have scarcely been tapped, that only the fringe of soil bordering on the ocean is as yet cultivated, and that its inhabitants are men of British birth—as energetic, shrewd, and enterprising as their kinsmen in Yorkshire or Pennsylvania-it is easy to see that in another decade Australia will be spending at least a million a year on her cable communications with India and Europe.
* In one Australian colony a message is carried for 3000 miles for one penny a
* From and after this date £32,000 per annum subsidy was given to the Eastern Extension Company, so that the total receipts, say in 1890, amounted to £363,468, or £1000 a day for cabling to Australia alone.
I cannot obtain the figures for last year, but it is stated that the result of the reduction to 45. a word was to increase the Australian traffic by 60 per cent.
CRUELTY OF PROHIBITORY CABLE RATES.
I have already quoted the evidence of an employé of the cable companies to the effect that not more than one in a hundred of the messages were family or social messages. And it is practically certain that during the period since 1872 not one of the many millions of humble and honest toilers at the Antipodes has been able to cable to the “old folks” in the Mother Country one word of intelligence or sympathy, however deeply he might have longed, at critical moments, to send that word, and they to receive it. A beneficent invention, the common heritage of our race-one that might enable all Christendom to assemble as it were under one roof, there to talk, laugh, and weep together-has been selfishly appropriated by a few speculators. Yet the figures quoted show that the commerce of Australia, like the infant Hercules, is too strong for the serpent that would destroy it at its birth.
GROWTH OF ANGLO-INDIAN CABLE BUSINESS.
It is not less interesting to note the extent of telegraphic intercourse between England and India, notwithstanding the outrageous tariff of 4s. per word now in force. To grasp the importance of this subject we have only to remember that India is inhabited by 250,000,000 of our best customers. Our total trade with India (imports and exports) amounted last year to £65,000,000 sterling, exceeding the total transacted with any other British possession, or with any foreign nation, except our cousins in the United States. Indeed, our trade with India (£65,000,000) and Australia (£60,000,000) constitutes two-thirds of the whole amount of our trade with her Majesty's numerous possessions. Several millions of our home population must be supported by the Indian and Australian trade.
The following figures show how vast is the revenue derived from the cable traffic with India :
Year. 1890-91 1891-92
Number of words,
Total niet value.
From another official return I find that the grand total number of words transmitted last year between India and Europe, inclusive of Eastern messages from Hong Kong, Singapore, &c., was 4,587,478; and the total net value was £644,528 2s. 8d.
The mere statement of figures, however, is but an imperfect index to the growth of telegraphic business in this case. In face of the all-devouring cable charges, the thrifty merchants engaged in the Anglo-Indian trade have elaborated code-words of unparalleled significance. Thus it is possible to convey an order, or the "market: rates” of six items, in a single syllable. Such a message as
Chickjee [to] Jones: Salaam” may mean “ Send by next steamer 500 bales of printed stuffs of the same pattern as before”; each letter in “Salaam " referring to a pre-arranged page of directions and particulars. Sir James Anderson, in denouncing the merchants for this thriftiness, complains that “the system of coding really enables merchants to send, on an average, about ten words in one." The rage of the baffled cable directors on perusing these elusive cryptograms may be imagined. .
THE BRITISH POSTAL AUTHORITIES' VIEW OF INDIA,
I cannot avoid adverting here to the extraordinary reason given by the late Postmaster-General (in April last) for refusing any reduction of the Indian Cable rate. In reply to a question from me, referring to the lowering of the rate to Australia from 9s. 7d. to 4s. a word, a