In a recent article we reviewed that portion of the Postmaster-General's report for 1876 relating to the transit of Ocean Mails, chiefly with a view to illustrate the advantages derived by the colony generally, and the central and northern divisions particularly, from the Torres Straits mail service. We have not, however, exhausted … the Torres Straits mail service and the general operations of the postal department.
In reference to the former, it may, perhaps, suffice for the present to show the British and foreign correspondence carried on by the various Queensland ports of call via Torres Straits during last year. The returns are as follows:
Brisbane 77, 883; Rockhampton 17,406; Bowen 3,190; Townsville 9,656; Cooktown 1,414; Somerset 487. Total = 110,756
Brisbane 1,605; Rockhampton 279; Bowen 63; Townsville 135; Cooktown 9; Somerset 13. Total = 2,104
Brisbane 102,158; Rockhampton 14,385; Bowen 2,444; Townsville 7,226; Cooktown 1,124; Somerset 50. Total = 127,384
Brisbane 89,916; Rockhampton 14,000; Bowen 5,273; Townsville 9,371; Cooktown 239; Somerset 407. Total = 119,206
Brisbane 23,416; Rockhampton 2,562; Bowen 577; Townsville 852; Cooktown 11; Somerset 53. Total = 27,501
Brisbane 133,894; Rockhampton 24,235; Bowen 10,351; Townsville 22,422; Cooktown 162; Somerset 520. Total = 191,584
Coming to the general returns we find a large increase in the business of the department. The total number of letters posted in the colony last year was 3,083,552, and the total cost for all mails, £65,183-the number per head of the population being 16.5, and the cost 6s. 12d. The above totals were made up in the following manner:-Inland and Coast-wise-letters, 2,554,066, cost of mail services, £43,821 ; Intercolonial letters, 397,922, cost of mail services, £1255; British and Foreign, 131,564, cost of ocean mails, £20,107. With regard to the last-mentioned sum, a note is appended stating that it is subject to future reduction, and the net cost of the three services is elsewhere approximated at £15,92:. The number of letters posted has shown an uninterrupted increase, except in the year 1867 and 1870, having risen from 199,168, in 1860, to 3,083,552, in 1876. Of Inland and Coastwise letters posted the only year in which an increase did not take place was 1867; Intercolonial have fluctuated considerably but show a large general increase. The British and Foreign letters posted in the colony showed a yearly increase, from 22,438 in 1860, to 127,322 in 1866; but then declined till 1870, the annual numbers being 103,688, 99,266, 94,438, and 93,826. This was the turning point again, and a yearly increase is shown up to 1875, when the number was 131,930. Last year there was a small decrease to the extent of 366, the number being 131,564. The correspondence for last year, however, including letters posted and received, showed a considerable increase in every class. The letters posted in Queensland for delivery within the colony, numbered 2,554,066, the increase on the preceding year being 15.66 per cent; the letters posted for dispatch beyond the colony numbered 529,486, increase on previous year, 11.18 per cent. The letters received into Queensland during the year numbered 474,323, increase 3.85 per cent. The total number of letters posted and received was 3,557,875 showing an increase of 13.27 per cent. There was also an increase in the total number of newspapers passing through the post office of 19.07 per cent, and on packets of 18.46 per cent, and on newspapers and packets posted in Queensland for dispatch beyond the colony, the increases last year as compared with the returns of 1875, were respectively 43.90 and 57.56 per cent.
On the 16th December last, a contract, in place of that terminating in January, 1877, was entered into with the A.S.N. Company, substituting a weekly for a fortnightly service between Brisbane and ports to the northward, and including Cairns, the new contract dating from the 1st January of the current year, and to continue for three years, terminable after one year, by six months' notice from either party, and the annual subsidy for this coast service is £7400.
The Travelling Post Offices on the Southern and Western Railway are referred to, and the reasons stated which led to their establishment. Some years ago it became a practice to send letters by the railway guards for the purpose of being posted at the terminal stations. The number of letters sent in this manner became so numerous that, although the practice was considered to be irregular, additional accommodation was afforded by means of post office boxes attached to the guards' vans, and the guards were controlled by regulations, and paid £12 per annum each, for duties connected with this arrangement, and also for acting as mail guards, and delivering and receiving mails at each station. It was found, however, that this interfered too much with the guards' proper duty, and the Commissioner for Railways intimated to the General Post Office in August last year that after the close of that year the attention of the guards on the Southern and Western Railway must be given exclusively to railway duties. It therefore became necessary to provide for the post office work, and arrangements were made for the establishment of travelling post offices under the charge of mail officers appointed by the Postmaster-General, at which all ordinary business could be transacted, such as the purchase of stamps, registration, and posting. As this system only came into operation on the 1st January of the current year, its working is not reported on, but will be dealt with in the next annual report of the postal department.
As regards the Inland mail service, a table is given showing that in 1876 the extent of miles on the various inland postal routes of the colony, amounted to 15,539 being an increase over 1878 of … being an increase' of 83,708; the cost of conveyance, including landing and shipping, amounted to £37,988, being an increase of £4827; the average cost per mile was 45/8d. as against 41/4 d, in the previous year; and the number of post offices was 175, increase 13.
The revenue of the department shows a considerable increase last year. The receipts by sale of stamps, amounted to £29,536, increase 2698; by fees for private boxes and bags, £710, increase £92; by postage on unpaid letters, £801, increase £46; by money order commission, £1483, increase £154; by amounts received from other colonies for conveyance of mails via Torres Straits, £1490, increase £432. The amounts due for postage collected in the United Kingdom have not yet been received, but are approximated at £3900 for 1876 and £3875 for 1875, making the total revenue for 1876, about £37,900, as against £34,472 for the previous year. The expenditure last year, including £19,351 for salaries of officers and country postmasters, made a total of £90,159.
The Money Order system calls for some notice. Business in this branch of the postal department was opened between Queensland and India on the 1st January, and between Queensland and the German Empire on the 11th February, 1876. The commission on Inland Money Orders was reduced on 1st August last year - the object of this reduction being to enable remitters to send small sums without much expense, - and there has apparently been a considerable increase of business in consequence. The number of offices on the 31st December was 56, increase 9; the orders issued, 25,889, increase 3193; the aggregate amount of orders issued, £106,026, increase £14,811. The orders paid numbered 17,578, increase 3014; and the aggregate amount of these orders, £69,201, increase £12,957.