Postmaster-General's Department

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Postmaster-General's Department
Department overview
Formed1 January 1901[1]
Dissolved22 December 1975[1]
Superseding agency
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
Department executives
Post Master General – Public Telephone, year 1950
Post Master General – Public Telephone with battery for power, year 1950

In Australia, the Postmaster-General's Department (PMG) was an Australian Government department, established at Australia's Federation in 1901, whose responsibilities included the provision of postal and telegraphic services throughout Australia. It was abolished in December 1975, and in its place two separate legal entities were established: Telecom (which later became Telstra) and Australia Post.


The "PMG" stamp can still be found on many manhole covers, such as this one in central Perth.

The Postmaster-General's Department of Australia was created in 1901 to take over all postal and telegraphy services in Australia from the states and administer them on a national basis; the Department was administered by the Postmaster-General.

The first permanent Secretary of the Department was Sir Robert Townley Scott who held office from 1 July 1901 until his retirement on 31 December 1910.

In its first 25 years, the department grew from 6,000 to 10,000 offices and from 18,000 to 47,000 staff.[2] Earnings grew from £2.4 million to £10 million per annum.[2]

In mid-1975 the department was disaggregated into the Australian Telecommunications Commission (trading as Telecom Australia) and the Australian Postal Commission (trading as Australia Post), it also controlled radio and television broadcast licensing, which is now controlled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Telecom Australia changed its name to Telstra in 1995 and has since been privatised.


The Department was abolished in December 1975 by the Fraser Government, and replaced by the Postal and Telecommunications Department;[3] the change was intended to take account of the increase in the functions of the department to include all electronic media matters which had previously been the responsibility of the Department of the Media.[3]

Early history of telephony[edit]

The earliest telephone exchanges in Australia date back to 1880 (Melbourne). All phone calls were manually switched by human operators; the Melbourne exchange opened with just 44 customers.

  • Post Master General - Public Telephone system: It was operating with the 6 volts DC battery, and it can be also used for the point-to-point communication without a human operator. With a human operator, the telephone system can be connected to the long distance location via several human operators, and the call charge depends on the distance between the source to destination.
  • The call change to the long distance can be referenced via the book: Telephone Trunk Line Service – distance, duration of call and price chart for long distance trunk call.
  • Guide Book about Telephone Trunk Line Service: It was published by Post Office Communications: about 1930-1935

The first exchange in Sydney opened with 10 subscribers at 1 pm on 11 October 1881, it was located at the Royal Exchange building, and the following year was transferred to the GPO.

The first automatic exchange opened in Geelong in 1912, featuring Strowger switching equipment; it had 793 subscribers.[4] Cross-bar systems started appearing in 1960. Electronic switching began in the late 1970s.[5]

The Victorian Telecommunications Museum houses examples of old technology used since the PMG's inception.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b CA 9: Postmaster-General's Department, Central Administration, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 5 December 2013
  2. ^ a b "Federation- 25 Years' Achievements Reviewed: Commonwealth Problems". The Canberra Times. 21 October 1926. p. 8.
  3. ^ a b Fraser, Malcolm (18 December 1975). "MAJOR CHANGES IN MINISTERIAL AND DEPARTMENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND FUNCTIONS" (Press release). Archived from the original on 11 January 2014.
  4. ^ Information on display at Telstra Tower, 18 September 2014
  5. ^ Telecom Australia (1979), Switching Tomorrow, HQ Information and Publicity office