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Research Guides

Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania

Tasmanian-specific arrangements

As indicated earlier, Tasmania has been the recipient of assistance from the Commonwealth which is available to all states of the Australian federation. In addition, however, for a variety of reasons (including needs caused by disasters such as the 1967 bushfires and the Tasman Bridge collapse), Tasmania has enjoyed financial relations with the Commonwealth which have either been unique or in common with states with similar economic disadvantages.

The aftermath of the 'customs leakage' Royal Commission

In light of the situation revealed by the 1911 Royal Commission  and its support for a special grant, Tasmania sought financial assistance from the Commonwealth citing section 96 of the Constitution. This section allowed that 'the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit'. Compensation began with the Tasmania Grant Act 1912, that is, a 'disability' type of grant allowed under section 96 to a state in economic difficulties thought to be due in some measure to the federal tariff and taxation system. The Tasmania Grant Act 1913 authorised payments additional to those authorised under the 1912 Act over 10 years. This special grant expired in 1921, but was to be continued until some permanent scheme could be devised. In 1926, the Commonwealth appointed Sir Nicholas Lockyer to inquire into Tasmania's continuing financial disability under federation, one of several inquiries established in the mid to late 1920s. Eventually, the Tasmanian Sinking Fund Agreement Act 1928 (plus two other Acts in 1926 and 1927) formed a system of special 'disability' grants to Western Australia, continued those to Tasmania, and provided that if the Commonwealth Treasurer should find surplus revenue it should be paid to the states in proportion to their population. The cycle of inquiries and special assistance was repeated throughout the 20th century.

Selected items documenting special assistance to Tasmania throughout the 20th century
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmania Grant Bill 1912, 1912
Similar items also for 1943 and 1946
A2863, 1912/13
Tasmania Grant Act 1913, 1913
Similar items also for 1928, 1932–36
A2863, 1913/22
An Act to authorise the raising of moneys for paying off, repurchasing or redeeming certain Debentures issued by the State of Tasmania – [Tasmanian Loan Redemption Act 1919], 1919 A1559, 1919/19
Tasmanian Loan Redemption Act 1919, 1919 A2863, 1919/19
Investments, Loans etc – Loans to States – Tasmania, 1919–53 A578, 80/17
Tasmania – statements 1935–36 [hearings re Commonwealth financial assistance to the States – various documents re Tasmania – includes report on the financial position of the Tasmanian Government Railways], 1935–36 A2776, H/1936/1/2
Hail Damage in Tasmania 1960 – Commonwealth Grant, 1960 A4940, C3088
Special Grant for Tasmania for 1969/1970 – Decision 1291 [4 pages], 1969 A5868, 783
Request by Government of Tasmania for Commonwealth financial assistance for construction of a rail link to Bell Bay and associated railway works – Decision 58, 1971 A5869, 685
States Grants Act 1974 – (An Act to amend the States Grants Act 1973 to grant additional Financial Assistance to the State of Tasmania), 1974 A1559, 1974/84
Tasmania – Financial position of state with respect to general financial assistance – Arrangements, 1974–76 A1209, 1974/7618
Outstanding matters raised by the Premier of Tasmania to combat unemployment in Tasmania – Decision 1868(EC), 1976 A12909, 849
Comments on the Premier of Tasmania's plan to combat unemployment – Decision 1793, 1976 A12909, 824
Agreement with respect to wheat advances between the Commonwealth of Australia – first part the State of Tasmania, second part the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, third part 1921, 1921 A11857, 19
Agreement further amending the Federal Aid Roads Agreement – Extension for six months, 28 October 1936, New South Wales – 28 October 1936, Victoria – 28 October 1936, Queensland – 28 October 1936, South Australia – 4 August 1936, Western Australia – 24 June 1936, Tasmania, 1936 A11857, 35
State Grants (Technical Training) Act 1965 – Tasmania, 1965–72 A463, 1965/3127
Tasmania Grant (Cressy–Longford Irrigation Works) Act 1969 – (An Act to grant Financial Assistance to the State of Tasmania in connexion with the construction of Irrigation Works in the Cressy–Longford area in that State), 1969 A1559, 1969/71
Tasmania Grant (Cressy–Longford Irrigation Works) Bill 1969 – WITHOUT SUBMISSION [1 page], 1969 A5872, 1245/LEG
Tasmania Grant Act 1969 – (An Act to grant Financial Assistance to the State of Tasmania), 1969 A1559, 1969/91
Submission No. 1274: Warner's Creek Dam, Tasmania – Decision 3351, 1977 A12909, 1274
South Australia and Tasmania – grants for community health and school dental services – Without Submission, 1981 A13075, 15157/AD HOC
Assistance to Tasmania for the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd – Decision 6600, 1978 A12909, 2567
Tasmania – New Zealand Air Link, 1980 A10756, LC2872 PART 1
Effects on Tasmania of Domestic Air Fares Increases and Proposed Tasmania–New Zealand Air Link – Decision No. 9992, 1979 A12909, 3513
Melbourne–Tasmania air fare subsidy – Decisions 975/ER and 1718, 1983 A13978, 142

Particular industries and needs

Throughout the 20th century, a variety of Tasmanian industries, projects and initiatives received Commonwealth assistance. At times funds were allocated within the framework of national programs; at other times, more direct political pressure explains decisions. Mining and exploration were especially important to Tasmania's relationship with the Commonwealth, beginning with World War I. The national need for electrolytic zinc for munitions was paramount. Wherever possible, help was also sought or offered for exploration and development, often with employment implications in mind.

Selected items relating to assistance within the Tasmanian mining/exploration industry
National Archives, Canberra
Visit of Dr Wade to Tasmania, 1915 A1, 1915/5070
Dr Wade – loan of services to Tasmanian Government, 1915–20 A1, 1920/9705
Tasmania's Oil Possibilities Articles by Capt De Hautpick A1, 1922/8600
Commodities – Oil Shale – Tasmanian Investigation Committee Part 1, 1924–31 A786, G16/9 PART 1
Tasmanian Osmiridium Producers Association registering that osmiridium be declared a primary product under Rural Credits Act, 1926 A1, 1926/10266
Commodities – Oil Shale – Tasmanian Investigation Committee. Part 2, 1930–34 A786, G16/9 PART 2
Wynyard coal and shale distillation Co NL – Oil prospecting, Tasmania, 1926 A1, 1926/6449
Bathurst Range Tin Mining Company – Application for subsidy for proposed geological survey in South West Tasmania, 1927 A1, 1927/20
Geological Survey of Tasmania – Visit of Dr Woolnough, 1928–35 A1, 1935/273
Aluminium industry in Tasmania, 1936 – 1955 A461, AE373/1/2
Mining – Briseis Consolidated N.L., 1936 A461, L373/1/2
Tasmania Grant (The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited) Act 1977 – (An Act to grant financial assistance to Tasmania in relation to The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited), 1977 A1559, 1977/141
Tasmania Grant (The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited) Amendment Act (No. 2) 1978 – (An Act to amend the Tasmania Grant (The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited) Act 1977), 1978 A1559, 1978/157


In the mid-1940s, Australia's defence industries needed aluminium, even though at the time it had no known bauxite deposits. What it did have, or at least Tasmania had, were cheap and plentiful electricity and access to a deep water port on the Tamar near Bell Bay and George Town. Under the Aluminium Industry Act 1944 an agreement was approved between Tasmania and the Commonwealth for the production of ingot aluminium in Tasmania, to be coordinated by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission (CA 250). Both parties contributed equally to the project's capital costs. Construction of the smelter started in 1950 and production in 1955, details of which, among innumerable others, can be retrieved from the National Archives' 29 series recorded by the commission. They include minutes of the production committee, surveys of deposits, financial records, technical papers on the development of the Bell Bay site, personal files and annual reports.

Selected items relating to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission (CA 250)
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmania – Representatives of State's claims in connection with aluminium production, 1942–47 CP925/2, AC63
Butler's Gorge Dam – completion to provide necessary power in Tasmania, 1942–44 CP925/2, AC59
Agreement with Tasmanian Government, 1943–52 CP925/2, AC18
Legislation in passing of Aluminium Industry Agreement Act 1944 (Tas) and Aluminium Industry Act 1944 (Commonwealth), 1943–44 CP925/2, AC58
Bell Bay site acquisition, 1949–53 CP925/2, AC500/3/1
Migrant workers for use on Bell Bay project, 1951–55 CP925/2, AC1005

In the late 1950s, the Commonwealth had second thoughts about the Bell Bay operation, though the Tasmanian Government was enthusiastic. Everything changed when Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd discovered large bauxite deposits at Weipa, Queensland, and then acquired the Commonwealth's interests through Comalco Industries Pty Ltd.

Selected items relating to Comalco
National Archives, Canberra
Negotiations with Comalco (Decision No. 285), 1959 A5818, VOLUME 5/AGENDUM 215
Offer by Comalco for purchase of Bell Bay Plant of Australian Aluminium Production Commission. (Decision No. 508), 1959 A5818, VOLUME 9/AGENDUM 415
Negotiations with Comalco Concerning Bell Bay Plant of Australian Aluminium Production Commission. Decision No. 542(HOC), 1959 A5818, VOLUME 10/AGENDUM 465
Bell Bay Aluminium Plant – Negotiations with Comalco Concerning Purchase of Plant. DECISION 837(HOC), 1959–60 A5818, VOLUME 16/AGENDUM 690
Negotiations with Comalco Concerning Bell Bay Plant of Australian Aluminium Production Commission Decision 628 (HOC), 1960 A5818, VOLUME 12/AGENDUM 535
Ad Hoc Committee – Cabinet Minute – Ownership of Comalco – Without Submission, 1959–60 A4943, 112/HOC
[Personal Papers of Prime Minister Menzies] Bell Bay, Tasmania [re sale to Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Ltd and Comalco], 1960 M2576, 6


Tasmania's forests were like its wild rivers – they represented natural aesthetic and economic assets. Over the course of the 20th century, the Commonwealth's interest in them changed. During World War II production, particularly of dressed and seasoned timber, was regulated. Gradually, the national role broadened from a source of funds assisting production and exploitation (and thus creating employment and export income) to a blended attitude favouring improved knowledge, careful logging and environmental protection and reafforestation.

Selected series relating to assistance within the forestry industry
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmania Forestry Loan Part 1, 1925–27 A2430, 1928 STA.TAS 2
Tasmania Forestry Loan Part 2, 1928 A2430, 1928 STA.TAS 2
Development Tasmania Paper Pulp, 1929–35 A786, Q22/6
General Report and Confidential Report on the Proposed Paper and Pulp Industry of Tasmania, 1931 A786, Q22/6 ATTACHMENT
Tasmanian Timber Association Importation of Timber to Australia free of Customs Duty, 1947–48 A431, 1947/2058
Reafforestation in Tasmania – Joint Commonwealth/State funding of a five year program, 1977–81 A1209, 1977/1690 PART 1
Assistance to Tasmania – Native Forestry Program – Decision No. 9270(Ad Hoc), 9417, 1979 A12909, 3321
Assistance to the Forestry Industry in Tasmania – Decision 4643, 1978 A12909, 1913
Assistance to the forestry industry in Tasmania – Decisions 5879, 6015(Ad Hoc) and 6092, 1978 A12909, 2464
Assistance to the forestry industry in Tasmania – Decision 5504, 1978 A12909, 2203
Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Act 1980 – (An Act relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania in connection with Tasmanian native forestry), 1980 A1559, 1980/97

Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme

The Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, which grew from the Nimmo inquiry  and began in July 1976, was intended initially to provide financial assistance to shippers of northbound sea freight between Tasmania and the mainland. Its aim was to reduce the level of freight payable to approximately the same level as that payable for the movement of comparable goods over a similar distance on the mainland. The scheme replaced a direct subsidy to the Australian Shipping Commission for Australian National Line's Tasmanian services. A form of the scheme still operates today, having from the beginning been gradually expanded. For example, within a year of the scheme's operation, air transport was included. Another later enhancement was its extension to cover shipments between mainland Tasmania and either King Island or the islands of the Furneaux Group.

Selected items relating to the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme
National Archives, Canberra
Tasmanian freight equalisation and passenger service subsidies – Decision 1009, 1976 A12909, 401
Section 25/5A: Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme – Civil Aviation – Review of Forward Estimates of Budget Outlays for 1977/1978, 1977 A13075, 2661
Forward Estimates Review Paper No. 43: Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme – Ministers responsible: Mr Robinson (Finance) and Mr Nixon (Transport) – presented at Cabinet Meeting 18 May 1978 – Decision Nos 5430, 5588, 5919 and 6090 – File No. LC721, 1978 A12933, 404
Decision No. 6258(Ad Hoc) – Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme – Without Submission, 1978 A13075, 6258/AD HOC
Decision No. 6294(Ad Hoc) – Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme – Without Submission, 1978 A13075, 6294/AD HOC
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme – Minister responsible: Mr Robinson (Finance) – circulated 10 May 1979 – Decision Nos 8530(Ad Hoc), 9064 – File No. LC721, 1979 A12930, 210
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (forward estimates review paper) – related to Decision Nos 15350(B) and 16185, 1981 A12930, 1439
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme – Without Submission, 1982 A13075, 17806
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES) – Decision 1611, 1983 A13977, 299
Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme – Decisions 848/ER and 1611, 1983 A13978, 134
Interstate Commission inquiry into Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, 1983–84 A9047, T1984/413
National Archives, Perth
Briefing paper on cabinet submission relating to the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, 1983 M1426, 186

Initially, the scheme was administered by the Department of Transport [III], Regional Controller, Tasmania (CA 1688). By the end of the century, this agency had changed its name eight times, taking us well into the closed period and beyond the scope of this publication.

Selected series relating to the administration of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme
National Archives, Sydney
Correspondence files, Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, 1976– P1787
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, 1976 P1788
Correspondence files, Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme,1976–78 P1810
Correspondence files, Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES), minor mainland claimants, 1976– P1997
Correspondence files Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES), minor Tasmanian claimants, 1976– P1998
Registration cards for claims for payment, Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, 1976–88 P2040
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme Claim Registration Books, 1976–88 P2043


Chapter 2
Commonwealth–Tasmanian financial relations