Opinion Number. 243

Subject

TELEGRAPHIC AND TELEPHONIC SERVICES WHETHER RECEIPT BY PRIVATE COMPANY OF MESSAGES FOR TRANSMISSION BY TELEGRAPH CONSTITUTES OFFENCE

Key Legislation

POST AND TELEGRAPH ACT 1901, ss. 3, 80

Date
Client
The Postmaster-General

The Eastern Extension Company having refused to accept the conditions imposed by resolution of the Houses of the Parliament(1) upon the ratification of the Cable Agreement, the Postmaster-General notified the Company that it was required to close its offices in Melbourne, so far as the receipt of cables and telegraph messages is concerned, and to discontinue the use of the special wire between Melbourne and Adelaide.

The Company discontinued the use of the special wire accordingly; but kept open its office in Elizabeth Street for the collection of messages for transmission by telegraph-which they then sent by hand to the Central Telegraph Office and despatched as telegrams.

I am asked to advise whether this is a contravention of section 80 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901.

Section 80 provides that:

The Postmaster-General shall have the exclusive privilege ... of transmitting telegrams or other communications by telegraph within the Commonwealth and performing all the incidental services of receiving collecting or delivering such telegrams or communications except as provided by this Act or the regulations.

Section 3 defines 'telegram' for the purposes of the Act as:

any message or communication sent to or delivered at a telegraph office or post office fortransmission by telegraph for delivery or issued from a telegraph office or post office for delivery as a message or communication transmitted by telegraph.
And 'Telegraph office' means a place-used or occupied by or under the authority of the Postmaster-General and under his control for the purposes of working a telegraph or for the receipt and delivery of telegrams.

It appears that the Eastern Extension Company has an office for the receipt of messages intended for transmission as telegrams, and that it transmits them as telegrams from a public telegraph office.

In my opinion these messages are not 'telegrams' or 'communications by telegraph' within the meaning of the Act until they are sent to or delivered at a telegraph office. Cf. opinion of Mr Attorney-General Deakin dated 14 September 1903(2) with regard to Reuter's Telegraph Company Ltd.

The telegrams in question are transmitted by the Postmaster-General, and the incidental services of receiving and collecting the telegrams-at the telegraph office- are also performed by him.

I am therefore of opinion that the facts as stated do not disclose any breach by the Company of section 80 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901.

[Vol 5, p. 246]

(1) See Commonwealth of Austraila,Parl.Debates 1905,Vol.XXX,pp.6307,6662.

(2)Opinin No.155.