Federalism, Finance, and Social Legislation in Canada, Australia, and the United States

By A. H. Birch | Go to book overview

4
FEDERAL-STATE FINANCIAL RELATIONS IN
AUSTRALIA

I. THE POSITION AT FEDERATION

THE Australian states, on the eve of federation, were in a similar position to the Canadian provinces in that a large proportion of their expenditure was devoted to development and public utilities, most of the rest to the costs of government, and very little to welfare or social services. The level of expenditure per head of the population was, however, very much higher in Australia, averaging £6. 10s. 4d. for the six colonies in 1896-7 compared with $4•13 for the North American colonies in 1866 (see Table 2 B, above). The sources of revenue drawn upon were very similar, customs and excise, public utilities, and revenue from lands and mining being the most important. However, the proportions in which revenue was drawn from these sources were very different. Whereas in Canada there was a heavy and similar reliance on customs and excise in all the original provinces, ranging from 79•8 per cent. in Canada to 83•7 per cent. in Nova Scotia, in the Australian states these sources yielded a much smaller and more varied proportion of total government incomes. The average was 29 per cent., but this conceals a range varying from 18•2 per cent. in New South Wales to 47•2 per cent. in Tasmania. The reason for these variations was, of course, that the states had different tariff policies. Victoria was pursuing a policy of protection, and imposed high rates on selected goods, Tasmania had a revenue tariff, with lower rates extending over a wider range of imports, while in New South Wales the Free Traders were in power and customs duties were as low as they conveniently could be.1 The other important difference between the revenue systems of the Australian and Canadian colonies was that the former included direct taxes. This, of course, was a result of the fact

____________________
1
S. Mills, Taxation in Australia ( London, 1925).

-80-

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