Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Postage on newspapers - 1891

Week (Brisbane), Thursday 31 December 1891, page 16

Tax on Newspapers

On and after the first of January every single newspaper passing through any post office in Queensland must hear a halfpenny postage stamp. The only exception to this rule will be when parcels of newspapers are sent to agents and paid for at the rate of 1d. per lb. If more papers than one are inclosed within a packet, and separately addressed, each must bear a stamp. The Act has been framed on rigid lines that cannot he evaded by any person who might desire to evade it. No honest man would try to evade it, although many an honest man will feel the increased price of his newspaper to be a hardship. The rigidity of the Act goes almost to the extent of injustice, for hundreds of papers will have to pay double postage. First, they will be post-paid in bundles, at 1d. per lb., to country agents; second, those agents will disperse them through local post-offices to subscribers, when a halfpenny will have to be paid on each paper. The disadvantage of the postal charge will fall on country readers. Town readers will not have to pay postage. For example, the Telegraph will still be sold in towns, reached by railway, at a penny, but subscribers along the railways to whom the Telegraph is separately addressed will have to pay l.5d. for each copy. The subscriptions to readers who get the paper by post will he increased 50 per cent. Upon them the new Act will operate with seemingly invidious injustice, but they must bear in mind that the charge is for work done for them; such work as is not done for the buyer of the paper in the city.

One effect of the Postage Act will be to induce country readers of daily newspapers to buy from local agents. This we strongly recommend readers of the Telegraph and the Week to do. The operation of the Act will cause a lot of inconvenience and annoyance at first. It will deprive many country people of their customary supply of news, especially those who have taken a sufficiently intelligent interest in current events to induce them to read a daily newspaper; they will probably substitute a weekly paper for the daily. Undoubtedly there will be less reading of newspapers. The charge comes at a time when domestic and commercial economy is a necessity, and every avoidable expense has to be lopped off. Whether the community will be injured or improved by the curtailment of its news time will show. One thing is certain, the sudden change is a heavy blow to newspaper enterprise. All printing paper is chargable with a duty of five per cent. A good deal of this new taxation will fall on the publishers of newspapers. The burdens of taxation seem likely to increase to a degree that will deprive enterprise of all stimulus and effort of all remuneration. Nobody cares to carry on business almost wholly for the benefit of the public Treasury. But your sardonic statesmen smile contemptuously at the distressed writings of down-ground commercial taxpayers, while they keep up the high system of administrative departmental expenditure. What care they if a few more struggling wretches go to the wall? A little economy in public administration might be practised in many directions. But the stream, of tendency is to swirl down those who are struggling hardly with the adverse currents of fortune. The "devil' may take the hindmost."