Policy Legacies from Early Australian Telecommunications A Private Sector Perspective

Main Article Content

Michael Alexander de Percy https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6871-0960


Australia, Telegraph, Telephone, History, Telecommunications Policy


The purpose of this article on the policy legacies from Australia’s early telecommunications history is not to present a counterfactual to Australia’s choice of public monopoly provision of early telecommunications services, but rather to indicate the extent that politics limited the private sector’s role in deploying early telegraph and telephone infrastructure in Australia. The article begins by outlining a theoretical framework for analysing government’s role in deploying new telecommunications technologies, before investigating some of the less familiar literature on the historical impact of government intervention on the private sector in the early Australian telegraph and telephone industries. It then discusses some of the political issues relating to the subsequent liberalisation of the telecommunications industry in Australia and concludes with a discussion of the historical legacies of government intervention on the private sector in the Australian telecommunications industry.


Download data is not yet available.
Abstract 401 | 431-PDF-v9n3pp136-152 Downloads 39


American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T). (1913). Brief of Arguments Against Public Ownership. Published by AT&T, digitised by University of Toronto Libraries. URL: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL24602737M/Brief_of_arguments_against_public_ownership (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (1900). 1398.0 - A Statistical Account of the Seven Colonies of Australasia, 1899-1900. Canberra: ABS.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (1910). 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 1911. Canberra: ABS.
Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre (ASTHC). (2000). Technology in Australia 1788-1988. Melbourne: Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre. URL: http://www.austehc.unimelb.edu.au/tia/529.html (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Barry, P. (2008). The Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer: Uncut. Sydney: Bantam.
Bustos, L. (1999). Telstra faces ongoing local call pricing battle. Computerworld, 22 January. URL: http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/42447/telstra_faces_ongoing_local_call_pricing_battle/ (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Coghlan, T. A. (1900). A Statistical Account of the Seven Colonies of Australasia. Sydney: William Applegate Gullick, Government Printer.
Commonwealth of Australia. (1982). Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Telecommunications Services in Australia, Volume 1. Canberra: AGPS.
Cook, J. H., de Largie, H., Mulcahy, E., Salmon, C. C., Storrer, D., Webster, W., & Wilks, W. H. (1910). Report on the Royal Commission on Postal Services. Melbourne: Victorian Government Printer.
Davison, G. (1978). The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne. Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
Demant, D. (2009) The Bell Telegraph & Telephone, 1875-1876 in Museums Victoria Collections. URL: https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/articles/15726 (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA). (2002). Liberalisation of the telecommunications sector: Australia's experience. Canberra: DCITA.
Gittins, J. (1974). McGowan, Samuel Walker (1829–1887), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. URL: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcgowan-samuel-walker-4094/text6543 (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Hansard. (1909). [Australian] House of Representatives, 18 November 1909, 3rd Parliament, 4th Session. Available at https://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19091118–_reps_3_53/
Hendry, A. (2008). ACCC admits to failure of anti competitive Telstra measures. Computerworld, 12 June. URL: https://www2.computerworld.com.au/article/224488/accc_admits_failure_anti_competitive_telstra_measures_/ (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Hunter, M., & Australia Post. (2000). Australia Post Delivering More Than Ever. Edgecliff, NSW: Focus Publishing.
Kelly, P. (2004). Comment: the Australian settlement, Australian Journal of Political Science, 39(1), 23-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/1036114042000205588 .
Koutsoukis, J. (2005). Telstra Rift: Minister No to Carve-Up. The Age, 10 March. URL: http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Telstra-rift-minister-no-to-carveup/2005/03/09/1110316091726.html (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Legrand, T. (2012). Overseas and over here: policy transfer and evidence-based policy-making, Policy Studies, 33(4), 329-348. https://doi.org/10.1080/01442872.2012.695945
Livingston, K. T. (1996). The Wired Nation Continent: The Communication Revolution and Federating Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Martyn, T. (2003). Reforming Chinese Telecommunications Law: An Incremental Approach. Sydney Law Review, 25(3). 325-359.
McCallum, A. (1976). Sutton, Henry (1856–1912), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. URL: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sutton-henry-4675 (Accessed 10 July 2021).
McLean, I. W. (1984). Telephone pricing and cross-subsidization under the PMG, 1901 to 1975. In Working Papers in Economic History, Working Paper no. 27, September. Canberra: Australian National University.
Mellor, S. G. (1974). Moore, Henry Byron (1839–1925), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. URL: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-henry-byron-4231 (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Morrison, E. (2005). Engines of influence: newspapers of country Victoria, 1840-1890. Melbourne: MUP Academic Monographs.
Moyal, A. (1984). Clear Across Australia: A History of Telecommunications. Melbourne: Nelson.
O’Leary, G. (2003). Telstra Sale: Background and Chronology. Economics, Commerce and Industrial Relations Group, Australian Parliamentary Library. URL: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/online/TelstraSale (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Putnis, P. (2002). The concept of the ‘national’ in the history of news discourse in Australia. Paper delivered at International Association of Media & Communication Research Conference, Barcelona, July 2002.
Raiche, H. (1997). A History of Australian Telecommunications Policy. Australasian Legal Information Institute. Cyberspace Law. URL: http://www2.austlii.edu.au/itlaw/articles/raiche_history/telco_history-1.html (Accessed 4 September 2021).
Rutledge, M. & Affleck, J. L. (1969). Cracknell, Edward Charles (1831–1893). Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. URL: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cracknell-edward-charles-3283 (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Sala, G. (1885). Intercolonial Telegrams: South Australia. The Argus, 8 August. URL: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6090250 (Accessed 10 July 2021).
Stuhmcke, A. (1998). The Corporatisation and Privatisation of the Australian Telecommunications Industry: The Role of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. UNSW Law Journal, 21(3), 807-833.
Taylor, M. (2003). Reforming China’s Telecoms Laws: Lessons from the Australian Experience? International Journal of Communications Law and Policy, 7, 1-29.
Telecom Australia. (1980). The Palace of Winged Words: The development of telephone exchanges in Australia. Melbourne: Telecom Australia.
Telstra. (2021). Telegrams to Tablets: Explore our history timeline. URL: https://www.telstra.com.au/aboutus/our-company/past (Accessed 4 September 2021).
The Argus. (1887, 19 January). The Government and the Telephone Exchange: Deputation to the Postmaster-General: Strong Charges Against the Telephone Company. URL: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page277491 (Accessed 4 September 2021).

Most read articles by the same author(s)