Morning Post (Cairns) Tuesday 20 August 1901, p. 2
At a meeting of the Cairns Chamber of Commerce held last week amongst other matters discussed was that of postal communication from the South. It is some time since Townsville and its back country received the consideration from the Government in regard to postal matters that its importance deserves. The Government was prevailed upon after a long agitation to recognise the fact that special arrangements should be made to give the North a fast mail service. As settlement advances in Queensland the unsuitableness of the site of the metropolis of this State as an entrepot becomes more marked. Situated in the South-East extremity of this State there is a seaboard of 1500 miles to the North, every point of which is entitled at some time or other to be placed within reasonable easy communication of the accidentally situated capital. Any Government which does not wish to encourage separation is called upon to reduce in some way the disabilities under which the far North labours with regard to mail service. Digressing for a moment from our subject-matter, the term far North is commonly used by Southern politicians, and contains an implication that we placed outside the bounds of rapid and easy communication. There is no reason why this implication should obtain, beyond the accident which places Brisbane where it is. We are nearer the centres of European civilisation and the worlds marts than our southern sisters, and yet the term, far north is applied as if we were on the outer bounds of civilisation whereas the contrary is the case. The application of the term becomes therefore a reproach on the circumstances that have placed outside the margin of easy communication, a territory which by its relative position with regard to the older civilisation of Europe is less deserving of the implication of remoteness than most other portions of this continent.
It is also a reflection on a Government which having the power to bring us within easy postal range, yet expends in works in the South large sums of public money, a very small proportion of which would be sufficient to satisfy our requirements. To remove the cause for this reproach is therefore clearly the duty of those who wish to preserve for Brisbane the status which by accidents she holds amongst the towns of Queensland, and to a certain extent this is being done, partly by the extension of the coastal line of railway which having reached Gladstone is now being extended to Rockhampton - one more step to its ultimate destination at Cape York - and partly by the establishment of a rapid mail service from Brisbane to Townsville, by subsidising the A.U.S.N. Co's steamer Barcoo, at the rate of £20,000 a year.
The mails are carried from that port to Cairns by the Palmer which receives a subsidy of £2ooo a year. The northern mails leave Brisbane … at 4 o’clock, a period of – hours. The Palmer leaves with the northern mails at 10 a.m on the same day, but calling in at every little port on the way she only reaches Cairns on the Tuesday afternoon, thus taking about two-thirds of the time occupied in the transmission of the mails from Brisbane to Townsville. And this interval between Townsville and Cairns could be bridged by the Barcoo in 11 hours.
Thus Cairns receives its Brisbane mail on Tuesday afternoon instead of at 4 o'clock on Monday afternoon. If there were no remedy for this it would be idle waste of ink to write of it, but fortunately there are two easy- and effective methods by which it may be obviated, and by which Cairns may be permitted to participate in proportion to her importance, and her relation to the resourceful territory lying behind her in the fast mail service provided by a Government which hugs to its bosom the illusion that Townsville is the hub of the North. Surely, in view of the vast sums spent in Townsville, Cairns is entitled to this small consideration. It is unnecessary to wax discursive on the importance of this port and its back country. As an entrepot for inland settlement, it yields in importance neither to Rockhampton nor Townsville, and occupies a similar position with regard to its western trunk line of railway to those which Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Townsville, respectively, do to theirs. The requirements of the territory tapped by its inland railway, demand that Cairns shall share in the consideration shown to Townsville with regard to postal service. And this may be done in one of two ways. Leaving a margin for unexpected delay or accident, the Barcoo could leave Townsville immediately on delivering her mails there, and steam to Cairns and back to Townsville in 24 hours. By this means, Brisbane mails would reach Cairns by this service, on each Monday afternoon, and there need only be a delay in the departure of the Barcoo from Townsville for the South of a few hours beyond the present time. A slight alteration of the timetables for western mails at each coastal town en route could easily be made to meet the trifling delay in her time of sailing.
We are aware that an objection to this method of expediting our mail service has been put forward on the ground that the Barcoo would have to wait for the tides to enter this port but this difficulty could easily be surmounted by running a small steamer to meet her at the entrance. This objection at the same time suggests a strong reason why the sand dredge "Hercules" or "Sampson" should be directed to this harbour. Here lies the opportunity for vindicating the utility of these dredges. While we urge this as one of the methods of providing ft' swift mail service to Cairns we also are not forgetful of the fact that the period of contract with the A. U. S.N. Co. practically precludes this method of expediting our mail service. It is not available at present, but the termination of the contract will bring the opportunity for applying it.
As a temporary arrangement however, there is the alternative of a steamer to go direct to Cairns from Townsville leaving the mails for the intermediate ports to be carried by the steamer leaving Townsville on Monday, evening, Whatever method is adopted however it is obvious that an important town like this cannot be expected to calmly submit to having its most important mails delayed a whole day while there is a comparatively easy remedy for the existing defective arrangements. Our postal arrangements in other directions are also capable of improvement. For instance the Saturday steamer arriving from Cooktown leaves Cairns at all hours on Saturday evening for the South so that it is impossible for the local Post-master to notify the hour of closing the mails until notified of the time of her arrival.
Also the Western Mails arrive at 6 p.m., and in the event of the steamer leaving early in the evening as she frequently does, but little time is available for the local officials to make up the mails. As a matter of fact, on one occasion this steamer went on her way south before the arrival of the Western Mails, and a special steamer had to be chartered to carry them on to Townsville. If there were necessity for haste to reach Townsville it would be another matter, but on Sunday no cargo can be discharged and therefore if this steamer were restricted from leaving before 9 p.m., both the public and the post office officials would be better served without any inconvenience or delay at Townsville. Another matter needing attention was discussed at the last meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in connection with mails from Port Douglas to Townsville carried by small steamers calling in at every port. If these mails were transhipped to the large steamers at Cairns, which do not put in at these intermediate ports, they would reach Townsville three days earlier than they do at present We think we have said enough to show that postal arrangements in Cairns need the attention of the Postmaster General of the Commonwealth, and we would suggest that as the Chamber of Commerce has already taken the matter into consideration, their hand should be strengthened by a monster petition, and the co-operation of other local bodies.