Publication Details

C. Dick, 'Taxation in Australia up until 1914: The warp and weft of protectionism' (2014) 12 (1) eJournal of Tax Research 104-129.

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eJournal of Tax Research


This article offers an account of the taxing policies in Australia from 1788 up until the beginning of World War I, when the exigencies of the First World War forced the Australian government to reassess its tax policies. During the period from 1788 until 1914, Australia transitioned from being a collection of provincial colonies with their own economic objectives and taxing policies to a Federation with a centrally-directed taxing authority. Whilst this political transition was taking place there was also a transition occurring in government policy concerning the function of taxation in Australia.

Government no longer used taxation just for revenue-raising but began to use it more as an intrusive tool to modify the private behaviour of Australians to reflect its own economic policy of protectionism. As a result, a strong symbiotic relationship developed between taxation and protectionism and, by the end of the first decade after Federation, Australia had become almost uniformly Protectionist.

This article argues that at the same time taxation was taking on this decidedly protectionist character, the Federal government's policy of imposing high tariffs on apparel began, especially in the first three decades after Federation, to markedly resemble what Alan Hunt calls 'a project' of sumptuary regulation. This meant that the Government, in effect, controlled what type and quality of clothing certain classes of people could wear.