Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, JULY 1, 1905. POST AND TELEGRAPH DEPARTMENT.
The annual report presented to Parliament by the Poslmister-General on Thursday reveals a satisf tctory etvte of affairs in that Minister's Department. There are certain branches of the Public Service that should no doubt, be conducted for the purpose of making a profit to the State, such for instance as Life or Fire Insurance, and also of course the Customs and Lands Departments. But Departments such as the Post and Telegraphs which constitute a great public utility and have become a necessity of modern existence are hardly to be properly considered as being conducted for the purpose of returning a luge profit to the colony's treasury. As long as this department pays its way, that is all that the Government should expect of it; Consequently it is in connection with the Post and Telegraphs that the public are entitled to look to the Government for concessions of various kinds—in this case of cheap postage cheap telegrams, and chesp telephones. In thia connection we may refer again to the question of .telephone facilities for the settlers in the out lying districts, a question to which we have referred on previous occasions. In various districts of the colony, including the Ashburton County, there is a marked lack of facilities for communicating by telephone with the nearest or leading town of the district, and as a consequence the settlors in the back blocks are frequently subjected to great inconvenience and even loss. In the case of urgen* communications where either important business or matters of life and death are concerned, tho installation of telephone services connecting the towns with the outpost settlements would confer an inestimable blessing on the settlers. The point of special importance in this matter is that in the majority of cases the service would pay the Department, aa tho revenue received annually would return a satisfactory rate of interest on the oost of tho installation. But even if some of the installations would not return interest on their cost", we consider that the Government is not justified in regarding that as a sufficient reason for refusing to supply those particular telephone services. All the Government should look for in these cases is;that the telephone service of the colony as a whole may pay all working and maintenance expenses and interest on the cost of it 3 construction. The present prosperity of the colony is largely due to the policy of putting people oa the land, and we consider it iB the duty of the Government to do all in their power to provide '' the man on the land " with such public utilities as telephones, which tend to reduce the inconveniences naturally associated with life in the country. We are glad to notice in the Governor's address s;iven at the opening of Parliament, that it is the Government's intention to ask for hrger appropriations for the purpose of providing increased telephone extension to the districts remote from towns. The Postmaster General reports that the profit on his Department last year amounted to £73,384 as against £54,024 for the previous year. The total receipts were £633,305, and the expenditure on all services totalled 80 p?r cent, of this amount. It ia interesting to learn that tha amount to the credit of. investors in the Savings Bank was increased by £372,000, of whuh over £200,930 was interest on deposits. Such evidence of the prosperity prevailing among the middle and working classes, who are the main users of thi^j Department, cannot fail to be gratifying to everyone. The number of telegrams sent out during the year shows an increase of only four per cont. on the suinbyr for the previous year, and this increase is regarded by the Postmaster General as disappointing, though the explanation probably is that the benefits conferred by the Telegraph Dapartment have already been so fully appreciated by the general public and by business men in the past that it is hardly possible with our present comparatively small population to obtain any marked increase in the use madn of it from year to year. It is worthy of note that the telephone revenue last year reached the total of £79,061, and that the length of line in existence amounts to 7,944 miles. Tho question of telephonic facilities for country districts is one which we hope the Government and the public will before long look at it from the point of viow which wo have urged above. The concessions that are g< anted to applicants for telephone services to conneot the districts out back with the towns ou^ht to be substantial ones. It is not easy to see the justice of the attitude of the Government in being 1 so anxious to protect themselves against a possible but certainly small loss in a matter where it is a question of conferring a very valuable facility on a class of people with whose welfare and progress the present administration specially identifies itself. The next budget with its Post and Telegraph Department appropriation will be awaited with great interest.