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Research Guides


Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania


Established financial mechanisms

Australian Loan Council

During the first two decades of federation, certain sections of the Constitution dictated the economic ground rules. Section 51 gave the Commonwealth general taxation and borrowing powers, and sections 86 and 90 provided exclusive powers to impose and collect customs and excise duties. In 1912 federal Parliament passed the first Loan Act to authorise the raising of funds, much of it for construction, and the Inscribed Stock Act to provide machinery for the issue and redemption of federal loan documents and the keeping of registers. Registrars were established in each state capital, including Hobart (CA 4938). In short, the Commonwealth and the states, including Tasmania, at times cooperated (the States Loans Act 1916 and 1917) and at other times competed for funds on capital markets.

Selected items documenting loan raising in the pre-Loan Council era
National Archives, Canberra
No. 1 Premiers Conference, Jan. 1917 Finance. Question of Commonwealth Acting for States, 1916 A2, 1917/3503 PART 2
Finance. Loans. Tasmanian Loan of £300,000, 1919 A2, 1920/2155
Premiers' Conference. Subject No. 5. Co-ordination of Borrowing, 1922 CP103/11, 802
Premiers' Conference. Subject No. 6. Adjustment of Interest on Loans made to States amounting to 18,000,000 pounds, 1922 CP103/11, 803
Premiers' Conference. Subject No. 7. Loans to the States for Immigration, 1922 CP103/11, 804

In the 1920s, the states' dissatisfaction with the mechanisms for, and results of, the allocation of national revenues grew, and not for the first time, people openly questioned joining the federation. Common interest and goodwill resulted at first in a voluntary and informal set of meetings in 1923 to coordinate the raising of loans. Then in 1927 the states agreed to join a permanent Australian Loan Council of Commonwealth and state treasurers. After securing a change to the Constitution, the Commonwealth took over responsibility for state debts, and agreed to determine the amount to be borrowed each year (for purposes other than defence) and to allocate it among the Commonwealth and states.

Series recorded by the Australian Loan Council (CA 502) and selected items from related series
National Archives, Canberra
Volume of Australian Loan Council Minutes, 1924–28 A6002
General index to CRS A6001, Loan Council minutes, Commonwealth and States, 1931–67 A10371
Volumes of Australian Loan Council minutes, 1929 A6001
Comprises 6 volumes, eg Loan Council minutes Jan 1929–Feb 1933 A6001, VOLUME 1

Commonwealth Grants Commission

Like the 'Braddon clause', the Commonwealth Grants Commission had a strong Tasmanian lineage. 'In July 1933', wrote Anne Henderson, 'it was Lyons' initiative as a former state premier to create the Commonwealth Grants Commission'. The actual idea, however, was more that of Tasmanian economist LF Giblin. Other influences were in play too, including Western Australians' overwhelmingly positive answer when asked in the April 1933 state referendum if they wanted to withdraw from the federation. From the 1920s in Tasmania too, the sense of grievance and, in some quarters, support for secession was also strong. The intent of the commission was to bring principle and factual rigour to the assessment of requests from the states, recognising their unequal advantages yet entitlement to an equal level of basic Commonwealth services.

Selected series and items relating to Tasmania and the Commonwealth Grants Commission [I]
National Archives, Canberra
Minutes of meetings, 1933–46
Includes numerous references to Tasmania, eg vol 1, 1933–37 (digitised) covering the commissioners' presence in Hobart collecting evidence re: The Case for Tasmania (see scanned pp. 43–60, 26 Jan to 7 Feb 1934)
A2775
Transcripts of hearings and related hearing documents of (1) Commonwealth Grants Commission (to Sept 1973) (2) Grants Commission, chronological series with alphabetical prefixes, 1933–73
The series has the evidence heard before the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Given under oath, it supported a State application for Commonwealth financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution. The series is arranged according to the location of the hearing (capital city or state). For Tasmania, see items H/1933/1/1 to H/1971/12/3.
A2776
Reports of proceedings transcripts for the Commonwealth Grants Commission, 1933–76
The series comprises transcripts of hearings and related material produced as evidence during hearings of States' claims for financial assistance from the Commonwealth, and therefore complements the more extensive documentation of series A2776. There are 50 record items referring to claims from Tasmania.
A5757
Relevant items also exist in series recorded by other agencies such as the Prime Minister's Department and the Treasury:
Commonwealth Grants Commission – Report on the application made by the State of Tasmania for further assistance under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 – June 1943, 1943 A1203, 351/720994/AUS/3
Commonwealth Grants Commission – Report on the application made by the Treasurer of the State of Tasmania for additional financial assistance for the year 1944–45 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 – July 1945, 1945 A1203, 351/720994/AUS/4
Commonwealth Grants Commission – Application by the State of Tasmania under Section 96 of the Constitution for financial assistance from the Commonwealth for the financial year 1969–70 – Transcript of proceedings at Canberra on Tuesday 22 April 1969, 1969 A10250, 11
Commonwealth Grants Commission – Application by the State of Tasmania under Section 96 of the Constitution for financial assistance from the Commonwealth for the financial year 1972–73 – Transcript of proceedings at Hobart on Monday 13 December 1971, 1971 A10250, 21

In 1973, the Whitlam government abolished the original commission. However, in effect it was expanded to include a role to accept local government grant applications, and 'Commonwealth' was dropped from its name. In turn, the short-lived Grants Commission (CA 1535) was abolished in 1976 by the Fraser government and new legislation created the Commonwealth Grants Commission [II] (CA 4474). Amendments have fine-tuned arrangements, for example, including the territories, but the commission and the basic 1933 idea about fiscal equalisation operate to this day.

Selected series and items relating to Tasmania and the Commonwealth Grants Commission [II]
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmanian Submissions to the Commission's Inquiry into State Tax Sharing Entitlements, single number series with 'T' (Tasmanian) prefix, 1979–81 A6554
Grants Commission, State Government files, multiple number series with 'SG' (Special Grants) prefix, 1973–79 A7750
See for example Savage River Iron Ore Project – Tasmania Travelling Allowances – Jan 1973, 1966–68 A7750, SG8/2/2 PART 1
Relevant items also exist in series recorded by other agencies such as the Prime Ministers Department (eg A1209) and the Treasury (eg A571):
Tasmania – withdrawal from the Grants Commission, 1974–75 A1209, 1974/6460
Tasmanian Tobacco Tax and withdrawal from Grants Commission System, 1972–73 A571, 1974/2962 PART 1
Tasmanian Tobacco Tax and withdrawal from Grants Commission System, 1972–73 A571, 1974/2962 PART 2
Tasmanian Tobacco Tax and withdrawal from Grants Commission System, 1972–73 A571, 1974/2962 PART 3
Tasmanian Tobacco Tax and withdrawal from Grants Commission System, 1972–73 A571, 1974/2962 PART 4

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Chapter 2
Commonwealth–Tasmanian financial relations