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Research Guides


Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania


Inquiries

As already noted, there seem to have been endless inquiries into Tasmania's place within the federation. Even during the debates and negotiations leading up to 1901, Tasmanian delegates revealed a keen awareness of the economic implications of their loss of independence and the Senate's powers to protect it. Even then, investigations were conducted and reports written: Inglis Clark's The Federal Financial Problem and Its Solution (Hobart, 1900), and government statistician RM Johnston's Federal Finance: observations on the difficulties, with an enquiry into their underlying causes, with an introduction and appendix by A. Inglis Clark, Attorney-General, Tasmania (Hobart, 1897). For reasons that follow, it was not long into federation when national inquiries, directly or indirectly, were begun into Tasmania.

Royal Commission on customs leakage, 1910–11

Section 87 of the Constitution reads:

During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of customs and of excise not more than one fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.

The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.

As soon as the 10 years were up, Parliament passed the Surplus Revenue Act 1910 which ended the arrangement, though it did undertake to provide the states 25/- per head of population and special assistance grants to support development and services. Intended to compensate states which were particularly disadvantaged by the loss of customs powers, section 87 had not actually helped Tasmania as much as expected. Its protests resulted, in August 1910, in a Select Committee of the House of Representatives (CA 2119), and in 1911 its continuation in the form of a Royal Commission on Tasmanian Customs Leakage (CA 2136) to 'inquire into and report upon the alleged customs leakage of Tasmania, and any revenue losses the said State has suffered since the advent of Federation', and more generally to report on 'losses sustained by the State of Tasmania since the advent of Federation'. The curious term 'leakage' referred to inequities arising from imports arriving in one state for consumption in another, and exports and the problems with the Inter-State Certificate System intended to manage it.

Selected series and items relating to Braddon clause, customs leakage and the Royal Commission
National Archives, Canberra
Royal Commission on Customs Leakage in Tasmania, 1910–11 A1, 1911/5404
Governor General's Office – Correspondence – Resignation of Honourable A Wynne MP from Royal Commission on Tasmanian Customs leakage, 1911 A6662, 1713
Royal Commission on Postal Services (Tasmanian Customs Leakage), 1911–13 A6661, 470
Papers re Customs leakages in Tasmania, 1908–10 CP2/4
12,000 [pounds] Customs Duties claimed by Tasmania,1901–04 A1, 1904/5170
[Press Cutting – Report of Royal Commission on the Tasmania Customs leakage – Daily Telegraph, 3 Feb. 1911], 1911 A5507, 10/6

Inter-State Commission

Though contemplated by section 101 of the Constitution, it was 1912 before legislation was passed to establish the Inter-State Commission. It was a mixed judicial and administrative body intended to police the commerce clauses of the Constitution and act as a standing commission of inquiry on trade and fiscal questions. The commission had power to seek and weigh evidence and investigate claims to increase tariff protection. Its members, appointed for seven years, were not replaced in 1920, though the Tariff Board, created that year, performed similar functions.

Selected items relating to the Inter–state Commission (CA 248)
National Archives, Canberra
Minute Book, 1913–20 CP17/1, 1
Interstate Commission Act. Second Annual Report of the Inter–state Commission, 1915 A5954, 2390/20
Interstate Commission Act. Third Annual Report of the Inter–state Commission, 1916 A5954, 2390/21

As part of the commission's tariff investigations, it took evidence in Launceston and Hobart between 16 and 20 March 1914 about tariffs on such products as timber, wattle bark, cast iron, baths, sinks, apples, beer and flushing cisterns (e.g. CP17/1,1 scanned pages 79–81).

Development and Migration Commission

The Development and Migration Commission was established under the Development and Migration Act 1926 and operated for the next four years undertaking investigations and providing advice on the premise that Australia could not develop without a larger population or absorb more migrants without increased development. The commission considered proposals put forward by Commonwealth and state governments, and recommended suitable schemes and projects for funding. It investigated the condition and development of existing primary and secondary industries and the possibility of establishing new industries. It also conducted negotiations both in Australia and overseas regarding these industries. The Tasmanian economy was one of its investigations.

Selected items from CP211/2 recorded by the Development and Migration Commission (CA 243)
National Archives, Canberra
Correspondence files and other related papers, 1915–30
Includes 214 items relating to Tasmania, mostly investigation files gathered in support of the compilation of WJ Rose's 'Economic Survey of Tasmania'.
CP211/2
Investigations – Tasmania – Summary report on investigation into present position of Tasmania, 1928 CP211/2, 39/144
Investigations – Tasmania – Visit of Commission, 1927 CP211/2, 39/82
Reports – Economic survey of Tasmania, 1927 CP211/2, 69/20
Investigation – Tasmania – McFarlane's Report – Financial Position, 1928 CP211/2, 39/132
Reports – Case for Tasmania, 1926–28 CP211/2, 69/88

Inquiry into financial position of Tasmania, 1926

Image 2: Sir Nicholas Lockyer’s report, ‘Assistance with “Severe Conditions”’, <em>The Mercury</em>, 20 April 1926, reprint

Image 2: Sir Nicholas Lockyer’s report, ‘Assistance with “Severe Conditions”’, The Mercury, 20 April 1926, reprint
NAA: CP660/28, 10
Enlarge image - View image gallery

In 1926, Sir Nicholas Lockyer was appointed special representative of the Commonwealth Government to inquire into the financial position of Tasmania. The Commonwealth was under pressure to do something. The previous year the Tasmanian Government had established a Disabilities Committee chaired by Sir Neil Lewis and included economists JB Brigden and LF Giblin. Their report, Tasmanian Disabilities under Federation, was soon followed by another, The Case for Tasmania, co-authored by Albert Ogilvie and Tasman Shields. This was presented to Lockyer, who argued in his own report that Tasmania did have an urgent need for assistance from the Commonwealth. The result was a decision to continue a system of special disability grants which was ratified by the Tasmanian Sinking Fund Agreement Act 1928.

Selected items on the Lockyer inquiry and its federal/state context
National Archives, Canberra
[Miscellaneous documents], 1924–27
Contains copies of a reprint from The Mercury, titled 'Assistance with 'Severe Conditions': Sir Nicholas Lockyer's Report and Recommendations on Tasmania's Claim', which relates to an inquiry on the financial position of Tasmania, 20 April 1926.
CP660/28, 10
Financial. Commonwealth & State Finances – Separation of Tasmania, 1926 A458, G230/36
Tasmania Sinking Fund Agreement Act 1928, 1928 A2863, 1928/43

Royal Commission on the Constitution of the Commonwealth, 1927–29

In 1927, the Bruce–Page government appointed a seven-member Royal Commission to take a fresh look at the Constitution. Issues which had challenged the 'federal fathers', and some they barely could have anticipated, were specified for examination. They included aviation, company law, health, industrial powers, the Inter-State Commission, judicial power, navigation law, new states, taxation, trade and commerce. It conducted public hearings in Hobart in January 1928, and many Tasmanian-related issues were canvassed. It was in front of the Royal Commission that renowned Tasmanian economist LF Giblin rehearsed arguments for an improved method of assessing the merits of states' requests for special Commonwealth assistance which later resulted in the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

Selected items about the Royal Commission on the Constitution
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmania [submissions, correspondence], 1927–28 CP660/28, 2
Miscellaneous correspondence, 1928–
Includes typescript papers by LF Giblin discussing draft report comments about Tasmania, eg 'The Costs of Protection' and 'The Unequal effects of the Tariff'.
CP660/28, 8B
Corrected proof copies of the Report, 1929 CP660/29
Papers relating to the Royal Commission on the Constitution of the Commonwealth, 1927–36 A6093

Joint Committee of Public Accounts inquiry, 1931

In June 1931, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts (CA 3200) presented a report on The Finances of Tasmania as Affected by Federation, which was printed in Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers as No. 238 of 1929–31. The committee's records, some of which are listed below, are technically 'Class A' Parliamentary records and thus not subject to the public access provisions of the Archives Act. Access is subject to permission of the Presiding Officer or in accordance with a parliamentary practice. See Archives Act (Records of the Parliament) Regulations, sections 3 and 10.3.

Selected series and items recorded about Tasmanian inquiries by the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Minutes of evidence, 1930 A12836, 1 also A12836, 2 – 5
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence, 1929–30 A12836, 6
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence, 1926–30 A12836, 7
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Reports, 1930 A12836, 8
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Minutes of evidence, 1930 A12836, 9
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Minutes of evidence & Reports, 1930 A12836, 10
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence, 1927–30 A12836, 11
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence, 1927–30 A12836, 12
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence, 1927–30 A12836, 13
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence, 1923–29 A12836, 14
Tasmanian Disabilities Inquiry – Evidence & Reports, 1923–31 A12836, 15
The case for Tasmania, 1930
Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics file on the Parliamentary Committee inquiry
A9590, 76

Rural Reconstruction Commission, 1943–48

The Rural Reconstruction Commission was established by the Minister for Post-War Reconstruction in January 1943 under the authority of the National Security Regulations. Its three members were to report on the organisation of Australian's rural economy for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth and the effectual prosecution of the war, including the efficiency of methods of production, distribution and marketing of primary products, and the conservation, maintenance and development of the natural resources of Australia. They were also to report on the reorganisation and rehabilitation of the Australian rural economy during the post-war period. The commission produced 10 reports and was wound up in 1948. In 1943 it heard evidence in Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and on King Island.

Selected items and series relating to the work of the Rural Reconstruction Commission (CA 245)
National Archives, Canberra
Rural Reconstruction Commission – Transcripts of Evidence – Tasmania – Hobart – 8th June 1943 – Indexed Headings – Treasury Department – pages 3001–3036 – Public Works Department – pages 3036a–3055 – Transport Department – pages 3056–3116, 1943 A6182, 24
Related items for 9–12 and 21 June A6182, 24A–29, 33A
Rural Reconstruction Commission – Transcripts of Evidence – Tasmania – Launceston – 14th June 1943 – Indexed Headings –Tasmanian Producers' Organisation – pages 3568–3580 – Municipal Association of Tasmania – pages 3581–3586 – Tasmanian Producers Association pages 3587–3630, 1943 A6182, 30
Rural Reconstruction Commission – Transcripts of Evidence – Tasmania – Devonport– 16th June 1943 – Indexed Headings – Returned Soldiers League pages 3631–3651 – Farmer's Wife, A.J Thomas – 3652–3657 – Devonport Agricultural and Pastoral Society – 3658–3669, 1943 A6182, 31
Rural Reconstruction Commission – Transcripts of Evidence – Tasmania – Burnie – 17th June 1943 – Indexed Headings – Potato Marketing Board of Tasmania – pages 3680–3692, 1943 A6182, 32
Rural Reconstruction Commission – Transcripts of Evidence – Tasmania – King Island – 21st June 1943 – Indexed Headings – Dairy Farmer , C.S. Brand – pages 3694–3699 – Dairy Farmer, F. Porter – pages 3700–3706 – Share Dairyman, W.A Gale – pages 3707–3709 – Warden of the Municipality of King Island – pages 3710–3714 – Private Citizen, A. Bowling – pages 3715–3719 – Landowner and Farmer, A.E Hardy – pages 3720–3726 – King Island Marine Board – pages 3727–3736, 1943 A6182, 33
Rural Reconstruction Commission 1943 Index to Evidence Tasmania, n.d. A6182, 6
Rural Reconstruction Commission 1943–Index to Evidence – Tasmania – Executive Officer, 1943 A6183, 6
Folders of Exhibits, 1943–46
The series consists of exhibits as submitted to the Rural Reconstruction Commission. Exhibits consist of reports, pamphlets, statistics, books, maps, sample forms etc. They were tendered in conjunction with evidence, or sent in by interested people. Includes 69 exhibits relating to Tasmania.
A6184

Commonwealth Housing Commission, 1943–44

The Commonwealth Housing Commission (CA 262) was set up in April 1943 within the Department of Post-War Reconstruction to inquire into the existing state of play regarding Australia's housing situation and post-war requirements. It invited evidence from government and non-government bodies and took public evidence in each capital city and 55 towns recommended by state premiers.

Selected items relating to the Commonwealth Housing Commission inquiries in Tasmania, 1943–44
National Archives, Canberra
(Tasmania) Burnie Visit – Arrangements with (1) Members of Parliament (2) Local Authorities for accommodation, arrangements re Witnesses. Etc, 1943–44 A11676, HC1943/109 PART 1
(Tasmania) Devonport Visit – arrangements with (1) Members of Parliament, (2) Local authorities for accommodation, arrangements re witnesses. etc., 1943–44 A11676, HC1943/109 PART 2
(Tasmania) Launceston Visit – arrangements with (1) Members of Parliament (2) Local authorities for accommodation, arrangements re Witnesses. etc., 1943–44 A11676, HC1943/109 PART 3
(Tasmania) New Norfolk Visit – arrangements with (1) Members of Parliament, (2) Local authorities for accommodation, arrangement re Witnesses. etc., 1943 A11676, HC1943/109 PART 4

Inquiry into transport to and from Tasmania, 1974–76

The Commission of Inquiry into Transport to and from Tasmania, described by Gough Whitlam as an 'ad hoc Royal Commission', was formed in April 1974. The brief provided to Mr J Nimmo involved looking at the existence and extent of any differences between the level of charges for the transport of people and goods between places in Tasmania and on the mainland, and the level of charges for the transport of people and goods between places on the mainland. He was also to examine the causes, effects and remedies of these differences.

The 1976 Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Transport to and from Tasmania identified Tasmania's transport disadvantages. Its central and enduring result was the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, introduced by the Fraser government in 1976 to offset the state's freight cost disadvantages. Its critics, of course, pointed out that the commission investigated only the transport of goods and ignored the transport of people.

Since the Nimmo inquiry, there have been further inquiries into Tasmanian freight schemes conducted by the Inter-State Commission in 1985, Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme Authority in 1998, Productivity Commission in 2006, and Infrastructure Australia in 2012.

Selected series and items relating to the work of the Commission of Inquiry into Transport to and from Tasmania (CA 2036)
National Archives, Canberra
Folders of submissions with exhibits, 1974–75
The submissions are from companies and private individuals representing the written evidence placed before the Commission. The submissions are arranged in numerical order: numbers 1 to 86; each submission is placed in a separate folder.
A4243
Folder of sundry exhibits, 1974–75 A4244
Master set of Transcripts, 1974–75 A4245
Report prepared by Canadian Pacific Consulting Services Ltd., 1975
The report was prepared by the firm of international consultants, Canadian Pacific Consulting Services Ltd., who were appointed by the Commission in order to obtain and prepare information on the transportation industry. The report is a technical appraisal of the transportation problems besetting the Tasmanian economy.
A4246
Report of the Commission, 1976
The report of the Commission was presented to the Governor–General on 5 March 1976. There is a comprehensive table of contents which contains: terms of reference, scope and conduct of inquiry, public hearings; summary of principal findings; interstate trade; freight forwarding and appendices.
A4247
National Archives, Adelaide
Proposed transfer of Tasmanian Government Railways to Australian Government – [Nimmo Commissioner of Inquiry Operations of Tasmanian Railways, etc], 1976–79 B300, 10380 PART 2

Inquiry into Tasmanian Railways, 1976

In September 1976, the federal government appointed a Committee of Inquiry into Tasmanian Railways (CA 4942) to investigate Tasmanian railway operations. Dr Stewart Joy chaired the committee of three. The committee's report, Tasmanian Railways: a report to the Hon. P.J. Nixon, M.P., Minister for Transport (Australian Government Publishing Service, 1977) was released in November 1976. As a result, in 1978 the Commonwealth Government's Australian National Railways assumed control of the Tasmanian Government Railways and the new administration began the long and drastic process of modernising the system.

Selected items relating to the independent inquiry into Tasmanian railways, 1976
National Archives, Canberra
Independent inquiry into Tasmanian Railways by Dr Stewart Joy, 1976 A9047, L1983/76
Independent inquiry into Tasmanian Railways by Dr Stewart Joy, 1976–77 A9047, L1983/77
Independent inquiry into Tasmanian Railways by Dr Stewart Joy, 1977–80 A9047, L1983/78

Inquiry into the structure of industry and employment situation in Tasmania, 1977

In December 1976, Tasmanian ALP Premier Bill Neilson called a snap election, highlighting as key issues unemployment and the federal government's indifference towards the state. His plan worked, just. The government was returned with a reduced majority. Contrary to arguments that the result prompted the Fraser government to action, the federal government had resolved on 11 November to initiate an inquiry (Decision No. 1815), appointing Sir Bede Callaghan to investigate the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania. Submissions were invited and hearings held in Tasmania.

Selected items relating to the Callaghan Inquiry, 1977
National Archives, Canberra
Interdepartmental Committee on draft terms of reference for inquiry into the structure of industry and employment situation in Tasmania – Decision 1815, 1976 A12909, 830
Outstanding matters raised by the Premier of Tasmania to combat unemployment in Tasmania – Decision 1868(EC), 1976 A12909, 849
Appointment of person to conduct Enquiry into the Structure of Industry and the Employment Situation in Tasmania – Without Submission, 1976 A13075, 1897/AD HOC
Report of Inquiry into the Structure of Industry and the Employment situation in Tasmania by Sir Bede Callaghan, C.B.E. (Callaghan Report) – Decision 3754, 1977 A12909, 1585

The Callaghan report, released in August 1977, was comprehensive and full of recommendations. It presented sobering observations about agriculture, diversified industries, tourism, mining, tertiary sector and the limits of hydro-electricity led prosperity. For the remainder of the decade and into the early 1980s, federal initiatives referenced Callaghan. Even the decisions to transfer the CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceanography to Tasmania, and to enhance existing CSIRO research there, were made with the Callaghan report in mind (see A12909, 3890).

Selected items relating to implementing the Callaghan Inquiry recommendations, 1977–81
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmania – Commonwealth Policy (Including the Callaghan Policy), 1976–78 A10756, LC1094 PART 1
Tasmania – Commonwealth Policy (Including the Callaghan Report), 1979–80 A10756, LC1094 PART 2
Tasmania – Commonwealth Policy (Including the Callaghan Report), 1979–80 A10756, LC1094 ATTACHMENT
Report of the Status of Action Arising from the Callaghan Report on Tasmania – Decision No. 8072, 1979 A12909, 3066
Action arising from the Callaghan Report – Launceston Precision Tool Annexe – Decisions 5980(Ad Hoc), 6091 and 6196, 1978 A12909, 2412
Action Arising from the Callaghan Report on Tasmania – Budget 1979/80 – Decision No. 9269(Ad Hoc), 9442, 1979 A12909, 3254
Report on the Progress with the Implementation of the Callaghan Report on Tasmania – Decision No. 9994, 1979 A12909, 3499
Transfer of the CSIRO Division of Fisheries and Oceanography to Tasmania and enhancement of existing CSIRO Research in Tasmania – Related to Decision No. 11093, 1980 A12909, 3890
Action arising from Callaghan Report (Inquiry into the Structure of Industry and the Employment situation in Tasmania) – Decision 4287, 1977 A12909, 1754
Commonwealth working party to review the Callaghan report – Inquiry into structure of industry and employment in Tasmania, circa 1981 A1209, 1981/511 PART 1
Commonwealth working party to review the Callaghan report – Inquiry into structure of industry and employment in Tasmania, circa 1981 A1209, 1981/511 PART 2
Commonwealth working party to review the Callaghan report – Inquiry into structure of industry and employment in Tasmania, circa 1981 A1209, 1981/511 PART 3
Commonwealth working party to review the Callaghan report – Inquiry into structure of industry and employment in Tasmania, circa 1981 A1209, 1981/511 PART 4
Commonwealth working party to review the Callaghan report – Inquiry into structure of industry and employment in Tasmania, 1981 A1209, 1981/511 ATTACHMENT
Cabinet Papers – progress with implementation of Callaghan Report, 1979 A10122, D/99 PART 1

Senate Select Committee on Passenger Fares and Services to and from Tasmania, 1980–81

In May 1980, the Senate established a Select Committee on Passenger Fares and Services to and from Tasmania. It comprised two government and two opposition senators, all from Tasmania. Around the same time, the government received a report from the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled Demand for Sea Passenger Transport between Tasmania and the Australian Mainland (August 1980). In November 1980 the committee was re-appointed to consider the Minutes of Evidence and Records. The report, entitled Passenger Fares and Services to and from Tasmania: report of the Senate Select Committee (Parliamentary Paper No. 152), was tabled on 18 August 1981. The government's response to this report was tabled on 7 June 1984.

Selected items relating to the Senate Select Committee on Passenger Fares and Services to and from Tasmania (CA 3290)
National Archives, Canberra
Papers of the Committee, 1980–81 A14152
Correspondence – Tasmanian parliamentarians, 1980 A14152, 5.16
Correspondence – Tasmanian Government, 1980–81 A14152, 5.2
Background and other summary material presented to Senators, 1980–81 A14152, 14.2
Air services to Tasmania, 1980–81 A14152, 14.13
Bass Strait ferry, 1980–81 A14152, 14.35
Ansett and TAA holidays in Tasmania, 1980–81 A14152, 14.39
Submissions – Part Five – tape of 'Becker's [Sue Becker] Broadside' – Submission 78 – 60 minute audio cassette, 1980–81 A14152, 20.5

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Chapter 2
Commonwealth–Tasmanian financial relations