Sumpturary law at the movies: the Entertainments Tax Act 1916 (Cth)



Publication Details

C. Dick, 'Sumpturary law at the movies: the Entertainments Tax Act 1916 (Cth)' Curtin Law and Taxation Review, Volume II 2015 (2015) 22-50.


Sumptuary law tends to be regarded as an archaic form of governmental intervention, which regulated public attire and luxuries for the purpose of economic, social and moral control. Because of this, sumptuary law has never been considered to have had a place in Australian history. This article goes against this view to argue that sumptuary law has indeed been used in Australia in the form of the Entertainments Tax Act 1916 (Cth), which was introduced during World War I to tax admission to various entertainments, including picture shows. The article explains the role the British Government had in the shaping of, and hasty introduction of, the Entertainments Tax Act 1916 (Cth). Various newspaper articles and parliamentary debates are used to explore the justification of the Act and the tax it introduced, as well as the criticisms it attracted Those in favour of the tax argued for its place based on various grounds, including morality, national duty and luxury. Those against the tax argued that it was urifair to tax picture shows, which were widely considered to be working class entertainment, leaving the wealthier class untouched These opinions and debates are used to assert the Act's role as a disciplinary project that had the same intentions as traditional sumptuary law.

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