Postmaster-General's Department

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Postmaster-General's Department
Department overview
Formed 1 January 1901[1]
Dissolved 22 December 1975[1]
Superseding agency
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Department executives

The Australian Government Postmaster-General's Department (PMG) was established at Australia's Federation tasked with responsibility for postal and telegraphic services. It was abolished in December 1975.


File:ManholePMG gobeirne.jpg
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 telegraphic services within 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

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.

The first exchange in Sydney opened with 10 subscribers at 1pm on the 11th 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 1912, featuring electromechanical switching equipment. Cross-bar systems started appearing in 1960. Electronic switching began in the late 1970s.[4]

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


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