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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 82

The extent of our taxation. The progress of our debt. The interest on our public debt. The public revenue & the public debt. Articles from the South Australian Advertiser, May 1884

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South Australian

Land Nationalization Society.

Printed at the Advertiser Office Adelaide: Waymouth Street.

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South Australian Land Nationalization Society.


1st. To stop the further sale of all Crown Lands.

2nd. To, by re-purchase, restore to the State the ownership of land already sold.

3rd. To provide for the leasing of all lands on such terms as shall ensure to the State a fair rental, and to the tenant full security for his improvements, and the results of his industry.

All interested (and who are not?) are invited to assist the Society in establishing Branches all over the colony.

Annual subscription, 10s. All communications to be addressed to the Hon. Secretary.

Wm. Patrick,

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The Extent of our Taxation.

All who are interested in the financial history and condition of the province may, with some profit, consult a table which we publish elsewhere, showing the growth of our taxation from 1850 to the close of the financial year 1882-3. This, it will be seen, is confined to the taxation levied through the Custom-house, no note being taken of the amounts derived in recent years from the probate and succession duties. If they were added to the annual total of taxation the rate per head for the last seven years would be some what larger than is shown. The total for that period however, is so small as to be practically insignificant, amounting as it does to no more than £74,062 18s. 3d. The taxation during the course of thirty-two years with the above exception has been derived from personal taxes, for they have consisted only of the duties charged upon food, raiment, and other things of common and necessary use. To analyse those duties as we have done on former occasions, in order to show for each year where the public burdens principally fell, would entail an immense amount of labor, not at all necessary to prove that almost, if not absolutely, from the foundation of the colony the people as a mass have been unfairly, because exclusively taxed.

The annual results show some singular variations in the rate of taxation per head of the population. For the first few years they were somewhat spasmodic, and are attributable more to the general disturbances which occurred in all the colonies at the time of the gold discoveries than to the fiscal principles upon which our system of raising revenue was then founded. During the first three years of the epoch included in the table the South Australian tariff as far as can be ascertained was not altered. The population was always increasing, but at the same time the rate of taxation per head actually decreased. In 1850 it was £1 5s. 11d per head on a population of 62,700 souls. In 1852, when the reaction set in, it fell to £1 1s. 1d. per head on a population of 68,663. In 1853 the population rose to 78,944, without any change in the Customs, and the rate per head increased to £2 3s. 4d., which is the highest point reached in the thirty-two years. That year, as old colonists are aware, was a year of large expenditure. Money was abundant, and was spent lavishly if not waste fully. The great increase in the capitation rate was not altogether due to the weight of inequitable taxation, but rather to excessive and improvident consumption. It must not be forgotten, however, that all the taxes fell upon person and not upon property. Then, as now, property was held to confer upon its owners distinct rights, and beyond the conditions fixed by themselves in dealing with it, It imposed no duties upon them, except such as tended to enhance the value of their possessions and increase the profits derivable from them. The purchase of land established a sort of right in the purchasers to a certain State expenditure to render their lands accessible; but there was no counterpoise to enable the State to receive any share in the increased value conferred upon the properties for the benefit of which the money had been spent. As soon as land was sold, and after deducting the cost of surveys and the sums devoted to immigration, the balance was spent upon the improvement of the land which had passed into the hands of private owners, many of whom were then and still continue to be absentees. Some of these owners have never seen the colony, and know nothing about it beyond what their agent's communications relating to remittances may tell them.

These people have all been quite satisfied to be enriched at the public cost—to have their property protected, their interest preserved, and their incomes and estates improved by the same agency. They must, however, have always known that they did nothing for what they got, except to enjoy and profit by that cruel system which sprung from an exclusive regard for property-holders, which was accompanied by a total disregard of the interests and just claims of those who had no possession beyond their ability to labor. This is why the rate per head of taxation has always been increasing. We need not dwell upon the fluctuations. They tell their own unsatisfactory story. The page 4 lowest point indicated by this barometer of taxation was 17s. 9d. per head in 1861-2. This was at the time of the 5 per cent, ad valorem duties. Since then the tariff has undergone several changes. Whenever money has been required the necessities of the poorer class have always constituted the fund from which extra supplies have been drawn. The climax has now been reached. At the end of 1882-3, with a population of 304,812, the taxation touches £2 3s. 3d, per head. As we are all too well aware that year was one of extreme depression in all branches of trade. The year which exceeded this amount was 1853, when it came to £2 3s. 4d., and this was a year of unprecedented private and public expenditure.

The close of the year 1882-3 brings us face to face with the fact that in the course of one generation the State has taken from the means of the people the enormous amount of £8,934,306 sterling. For the sacrifice thus extorted from them they have received absolutely nothing in return. In order to arrive at a period of comparison between the sums, the use of which property has monopolised, and those which have been exacted from the people, we deduct the Customs revenue from the years 1851-2, amounting to £193,401 17s. 2d. from the gross receipts of the thirty-two years. We thus have a total of personal taxation of £8,740,963 17s. 5d. The outlay on public works for the same period amounts to £20,357,661 8s. 11d. The former sum is irrevocably gone. The latter is substantially real and existent—not as a mere amount, but as a power—a fund gratuitously bestowed on property-holders, benefiting the grantor in no degree, but year by year rendering more and more to the fortunate grantees. If we consider what an enormous increase has taken place in the value of land during the past few years, some idea may be formed of the extra value which the public expenditure has added to it. If we assume that for every pound so expended a general advantage to property equal to another pound has accrued (and this is much below the truth) we see a sum of £40,714,323 which private ownership of land has acquired at the hands of the State in one generation, As far as the State is concerned this sum in its relation to the property holder is as much sunk and lost as the sum taken from the people in Customs duties. The property holder, however, in his relation to the State has had this sum added to the value of his land It is attached inalienably to the land itself, and forms the fulcrum by means of which both selling parties and annual profits are lifted from time to time. It is impossible to deny this fact, as it is impossible to ignore the current facts that the beneficiares have done nothing to merit this astounding but blind liberality on the part of the community, and have not attempted any repayment or to yield anything whatever in return for what they have absorbed. So far from that, representatives of the landed interest have invariably promoted the continuance of the monopoly they have enjoyed. Not only have they done this but they have stubbornly resisted every attempt that has hitherto been made to impose any tax upon land. Under the plea of objecting to schemes of taxation as being imperfect, they have always succeeded in preventing taxation from becoming a fact They refused a halfpenny in the pound just as they rejected everything else that had gone before that proposition, and they will continue to refuse everything unless extra-ordinary pressure is brought to bear upon them. The position is this, that land taxation now is a matter of stern necessity as well as a matter of just principle, and at whatever cost those who represent the land interest must be compelled to yield.

The following table shows the Customs revenue, the population, and the rate of taxation per head through the Customs from 1850 down to the end of 1882-3 :—

Year. 1860 .. 1861 .. 1852 .. 1853 .. 1854 1855 1856 1857 .. 1858 Half-year 1859-Customs Revenue. £100 080 5 93,321 11 72 514 9 171.299 3 161,294 11 129,501 10 152,135 19 151,667 4 156,284 6 66,976 93 11 0 11 4 10 3 11 4 1Population. 63,700 66,538 68,663 78 944 92 545 96 982 104 708 109,917 118,340 122,735Rute per head £1 11 5 1 8 0 1 1 1 2 3 4 1 14 10 1 6 8 1 9 1 1 7 7 1 6 2 1 1 01859 1860141,64579124,1121210 1860-1 1861-2 1862-3 1862-4 1864-5 Half-year 1865115 215 12 9 119 855 18 9 126 809 2 4 187 638 7 6 227,166 9 11 118,857 15 8126,830 135,329 140,416 147.341 156,605 160,028 0 0 0 1 1 118 17 18 6 9 11 9† 1 6 0 1 1866 1867 1868 .. 1869 .. 1870 .. 1871 1872 .. 1873 Half-year 1874230,134 0 9 200,832 5 1 198,531 7 10 223,452 1 5 188 896 1 3 234,980 14 8 257,043 1C 5 362 246 3 8 184,270 10 7103,452 172,860 176.298 131.140 1SS 979 16 026 19 i 221 198 075 201.6 31 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 18 1 3 3 1 5 4 8 0 7 5 8 6 9 16 7 16 101874-5 .. 1875-6 1876 7 .. 1877-8 .. 1878-9 .. 1879 80 1880-1 1881-2 1882-3 _-873 294 0 434 144 0 450,363 7 708 867 18 509-848 16 510, 186 4 515,680 12 600,992 18 638,726 511 7 1 7 1 4 3 3 4210,442 226.677 236,864248 795 259,460 267 573 286,324 293 509 304,8121 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 215 5 18 6 18 0 0 11 19 3 18 2 16 0 0 3 3 3 Total £8,934,465 14 7 *highest point reached. † Lowest point reached.

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The Progress of our Debt.

We recently published a table which placed before our readers a statement of the growth and pressure of the unjust system of taxation which has been in force in South Australia for the last thirty-two years. We now direct attention to another tabular statement printed else where, which will give some insight into the growth of our national debt. The period with the table embraces is from 1854 to the end of last year. Our debt like our taxation has been always growing larger, although the figures show that there have been a few instances in which the amount of our liabilities has actually deceased. We commenced borrowing in 1854—at least that is the first year in which a debt figures in the annual returns. It was then only £135,000, which was equal to a personal burthen of £1 9s. 8d. per head of a population of 92,545. In the following year the capitation rate fell to £1 7s. 11d., because the population had increased to 96,892, whilst no addition had been made to the loan account. In 1856 the debt was no more than doubled, and notwithstanding a considerable increase in population, the rate per head advanced from £1 7s. 11d. to £2 16s 4d. Next year (1857) the debt in round numbers was again doubled, and the rate per head stood at £5 8s. 9d. For the ensuing three years a few comparatively small loans were contracted, which brought the total up to £870,100, and the rate per head to £6 16s. 8d For the next six years with one exception (1863) the debt was being continually reduced, and the amount had fallen from £870,100 in 1860, to £775,600 in 1866, and the rate per head from £6 16s. 8d. to £4 14s. 5d. At this point reduction in principal as well as in the capitation rate substantially came to an end. In the earlier stages of the borrowing, the bonds issued were terminable at irregular periods, and were retired at maturity. The practice now is to give all the bonds a uniform currency of thirty years. From time to time some of the earlier securities drop in and are paid off, but our borrowing for some years past has been conducted on so large a scale that the repayments which are made have no other effect than gradually to bring down the rate of interest to one standard of 4 par cent.

At the end of the five years which came after 1866, the rate per head had grown from £4 15s. 5d. to £11 13s. In 1872 the debt was again slightly reduced, and the rate per head fell to £10 17s. 11d. This is the last decrease that has taken place. Ever since then not a year has passed without some augmentation of the permanent burdens of the colony. The borrowing pace has been rapid. Between 1872 and 1877 the debt itself had been increased from £2,094,000 to £4,737,200 and the capitation rate from £10 17s. 11d. to £19 19s. 7d. Our progress from the end of the last-named year may be conveniently shown by quoting the head rate from that time down to the end of the year 1883. Thus in 1878 it was £21 8s. 5d.; in '79, £29 8s. 5d,; in '80, £36 17s. 4d.; in '81, £39 2s. 1d.; in '82, £42 9s. 10d., and in '83, £44 18s, 2d. The late treasurer, we believe, stated that the debt could be increased until it amounted to £50 per head of the population. However this may be, it is as well to point out that we have already reached that amount, or at least we have approached it so closely as to render it at least prudent to scrutinise our position with some care. The present Treasurer has just sent home bonds to the amount of some £1,600,000, to be converted into cash as soon as the state of the money market is such as to promise the most favorable results. By the end of this year there is no doubt that that sum will have been added to the total of our present indebtedness. For 1883 the population is set down as 304,812, the colonial debt less repayments at £13,908,700, and the head rate at £44 18s. 2d. At the close of the current year, allowing only per cent. for the increase of population by immigration and from natural causes, the colony will contain 315,480 souls, the debt will amount to £15,508,700, and the indebtedness to £49 3s. 2d. per head.

In setting out the facts which the table discloses we have offered no opinions on the policy which has been pursued in creating the heavy liability that rests page 6 upon the colony. The remarkable circumstances connected with it is that no provision has been made for meeting the annual charge in the shape of interest. The short-dated bonds were duly retired when they had run out, but whilst we were paying the public creditor with one hand we were increasing our liabilities with the other. The matter of the interest was left to the determination of circumstances, under the general idea that we should always be able to pay the yearly charge. So far this has been done, and hitherto without sacrifice. The prospect that the time would come when the revenue would require aid from additional taxation has been distinctly recognised by every Ministry since Mr. Boucaut was in office, and attempts more or less earnest have been made to obtain an increased revenue by this means. The landed interest, however, has succeeded in defeating every proposition which could reach either them or their absentee clients. The evil day has now come upon us, and our actual cash deficiency is at the present moment more than a quarter of a million sterling on the year's transactions. We shall not now consider how this particular difficulty in the history of our debt is to be encountered. It will be sufficient here to show how our debt has been spent. When that is thoroughly understood the source from which new revenue should be derived will easily be discerned.

The theory upon which our borrowing was founded was that all moneys so raised should be applied to the construction of reproductive works. This principle has been widely and seriously departed from; for at the close of the year 1883, of the debt amounting at that date to £13,908,700, no less than £3,055,642 had been applied to undertakings that were not reproductive, and out of that £3,204,642 was sunk in works which never can be reproductive as investments The remaining £10,256,058 is represented by works reproductive in their nature; but some of them are so in a small degree only, and others not at all, as far as regards the country which borrowed the money and laid it out. The railways, which represent an expenditure of £5,923,150, returned last year only 2½ per cent. on the outlay; and the waterworks, representing £1,053,160, less certain losses, yielded only 3¾ per cent. These returns are reckoned only on the actual outlay. Taking the gross amounts borrowed for these undertakings, which total £9,022,178, the revenue from this sum last year was only £191,567, or rather less than £2 2s. 6d. per cent. From this it seems that of the money raised for reproductive works £1,230,880 returns nothing at all—making £4,886,522 of borrowed money absolutely unproductive, and so a dead weight on the community

With the exception of £100,000, which figures in the loan accounts as "aid to revenue," and some money borrowed on exchequer bills—since repaid—the whole has been expended in such a way as to effect a large increase in the permanent as well as in the annual value of all the land which has been alienated from the Crown. How the propertied classes, who pretend that they pay their fair share towards the public burdens, recognise the value of State expenditure on public works may be seen from the avidity with which they ask for railways, roads, waterworks, police-stations, courthouses, harbor works, hospitals, bridges, jetties, &c. Their high appreciation of the benefits they enjoy in the shape of increased value may be seen in the sums they demand for land whenever it is necesary to repurchase it for public purposes, If all the money spent had been devoted to works exclusively reproductive, possibly the loans might be regarded as less formidable than they now appear; still, that would afford no reason why propertyholders should not contribute substantially to the revenue, and so acknowledge in some degree the source from which they have derived so large a proportion of their landed riches. But the £1,066,500 sunk in main roads costs the country nearly £43,000 a year for interest alone, besides the cost of maintenance, which last year amounted to £113,722. Thus it is with harbor improvements and the other works above enumerated. They have been made with borrowed money, they are maintained by the Government, and the public through the Government actually pay interest on the endowments they have conferred upon the lands. In what sense do the masses who now pay £2 3s. 3d per head through the Customs towards the revenue participate in the wealth the State has created? In what sense do the landed proprietors stand between the working classes and the dead weight of £50 a head—man, woman and child—in the shape of the permanent debt that weighs upon them? As yet they have given nothing; hitherto they have refused everything. How long is this state of things to continue? The solution, it is certain, cannot be far off when it is known as a fact that the whole of the Customs revenue for the year is at this moment very little more than the interest on the colonial debt for the same period; the figures being £618,871 for Customs receipts, and interest on bonded debt £617,008. This subject will be referred to again in a future article.

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The following table shows the population, amount of the public debt, and the annual rate of Indebtedness taken at per head of the population:—
Year. Population. Public Debt. Rate per head.
£ £ s. d
1854 92,545 185,000 1 9 3
1855 96,982 135,000 1 7 11
1856 104,708 294,900 2 16 4
1857 109,917 597,700 5 8 9
1858 118 340 662,000 5 11 10
1859 122,735 830,200 6 16 1
1860 124,112 870,100 6 16 8
1861 126,830 866,500 6 15 10
1862 135,319 853,300 6 6 1
1863 140,416 866,850 6 3 6
1864 147,341 839,300 5 13 10
1865 156,605 796,200 5 1 8
1866 163,458 775,600 4 14 5
1867 172,860 1,077,750 6 4 9
1868 176,898 1,663,100 9 8 8
1869 181,146 1,731,300 9 16 8
1870 183,797 1,944,700 10 11 5
1871 185,626 2,167,700 11 13 0
1872 192,223 2,094,800 10 17 11
1873 198,075 2,174,900 10 19 7
1874 204,629 2,989,750 14 2 6
1875 220,442 3,320,600 15 15 7
1876 225,677 3,827,200 17 0 9
1877 236,864 4,737,200 19 19 7
1878 248,895 5,329,600 21 8 5
1879 259,460 6,605,750 25 8 5
1880 267,573 9 865,600 36 17 4
1881 286,324 11,696,800 39 2 1
1882 293,509 12,472,600 42 9 10
1883 304,812 13,908,700 44 18 2

The figures relating to the population and public debt are taken from the annual returns, which do not notice the changes which have been made from time to time in the time for beginning and ending the financial year. That, however, does not affect the result. It is almost needless to remark that fractional parts of the penny have been omitted.

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The Interest on our Public Debt.

In another portion of the present issue we publish a table which shows how the interest upon our public debt has grown. Beginning at zero in the year 1854, when our first loan was contracted, we have progressed from an annual charge of 1s. 5¼d per head of the population in 1855, until we have reached the considerable sum of £1 16s. 2½d., which is the capitation rate for the present year. When the bonds for £1,651,300 recently sent to London for sale are brought to account, the annual charge per head will be close upon £2 for interest alone. As may be seen by reference to the table referred to, an increase in the population of the province has brought no decrease in the rate of interest payable. That seems to grow as the population grows. It is true that the figures exhibit some curious fluctuations in the rate, but they are due entirely to the unscientific fashion in which the debt has always been handled. The first bonds were issued so as to become payable at arbitrary periods, fixed either by or to suit the wishes of the original lenders. Then the rate of interest was reduced from six to five, from five to four and a half, and then to four per cent., at which point it remains at present. In the course of the thirty years included in the table, the date for the commencement of the financial year has been altered three times. These changes, coupled with the uncertainty or rather irregularity of the postal communication with Great Britain, frequently cast the payments which belonged to one period into the accounts of a later period. Besides this, the mode in which the sums paid on loan account were published in the official statements, in which for a number of years the principal sums paid off were lumped together with the interest, has rendered it a task of great difficulty to arrive at the true facts of the case. The figures that we produce, however, may be relied on. Without now going into details, it should be noted that in the first six years and a half of our borrowing the rate per head of interest payable increased more than fivefold—that is from 1s. 5½d. to 7s. 7¾d. For the next seven years the fluctuations in the rate, owing to the causes before-mentioned, were frequent and irregular, but at the close of that period it had fallen from 7s 9¼d. to 5s, 8½d. In the next seven years it had grown from 5s, ll½d. to 12s, 2½d. In the next four and a half years it increased from 13s. to 18s. 9d. This brings us down to the year '77-8. Since then a large yearly increase has taken place, until the current year terminating on the 30th June, brings the rate up to £1 16s, 2½d, per head. It will be observed that in the table the sum of £571,273 is set down as interest for the present year. In a recent article it was stated as £618,871. That, however, included a sum for the redemption of bonds which will not become due till July 1. This circumstance, however, is not of much importance in considering the subjects of the interest on our debt and the amount of our taxation, because in any case they approach each other so closely as substantially to amount to equality. In the course of the coming financial year the prospect, almost amounting to certainty, is that the interest payable will exceed the Customs receipts.

At the close of the last financial year bonds to the amount of £15,174,919 had been placed in circulation, of which £897,100 had been redeemed; so that then without further borrowing we had a debt of £13,908,700, carrying an interest of £519,941, or £1 14s. 1d. per head of the population. The present year, like its predecessor, has added to it, so that now the interest comes to £1 16s, 2½d. The rate per head, however, drops into insignificance when we take into consideration the whole sum which we have disbursed in the shape of interest. On June 30 we had paid away on this account £4,580,313, or £14 10s. 4½d. per head on the basis of the estimated population for the current year without experiencing any relief. The sums we have borrowed have in part been repaid, not however from the net returns from our invested money, but from the general revenue The only undertakings which have paid anything towards the interest due on the debts contracted to construct them have been the railways and waterworks. For the first seventeen years of their existence the railways paid nothing beyond their expenses. Indeed, they often showed an absolute loss on the working. In the following thirteen years out of the thirty which our tables embrace, they have always paid something, which has ranged from 9s. 4d. per cent, on the capital expended to £4 5s. 2d. This last page 9 amount, however, was only for half a year ending June, 1878. The water-works also have paid something, but their net earnings from the outset down to the present time have only been £113,182. The net earnings of the railways for the whole period have amounted to £978,116. These two sums representing all the profit on our reproductive works make £1,091,298, against £2,594,901 paid for interest on the capital sunk in them. Thus the profit up to the present date is just about two-fifths of the interest they have cost the colony. The relief to the general revenue extending over the full period of thirty years for these two undertakings—taken at per head on the basis of the estimated population for the present year—amounts to £3 9s, 3¼d., against £14 10s, 4½d. paid during the same period, leaving the general public £11 1s. 4¼d. to the bad in the matter of interest.

Although the sums paid annually to make good any deficiencies in the returns from reproductive works are not usually regarded as taxes, they have become taxes to all intents and purposes, because they have diminished the public resources which should have been applied so as to benefit all alike in order to meet obligations incurred mainly for the benefit of a few, who are the only persons who principally profit by them. In that sense, like the Customs, they have become class taxes of an odious as well as onerous kind. With an estimated revenue of £2 107,284 for this year we confiscate £618,871 from the earnings of the people in duties, and £571,273 in the shape of interest, for which there is no return whatever, thus; making the masses pay for the whole expenses of government, and more; whilst the landed interest enjoys the whole expenditure which the temptation of the interest has obtained from foreign capitalists for the permanent and ever growing improvement of landed possessions. The railway returns for the year '82-3 show a profit of £2 56 per cent., or £2 11s, 2d. on £5,923,159, which was the amount of capital expended on the average mile of line open for traffic. At the same time it must be borne in mind that £7,766,208 had been borrowed for railway construction, and bore interest. It follows then that the sum of £151,870, which is the net profit available for revenue for that year, represents no more than £196, or £1 19s. 2d. per cent, on the loans for railways current at that time. At the same time the capital expended on all works under the control of the Hydraulic Engineer totalled £ 1,341,113. The money borrowed which bore interest was £1,498,760, so that the apparent profit on the year's transactions, which is set down at £4 62 per cent, or £4 12s, 5d. in reality, amounts to more than £2.59 percent., or £2 10s. 11d. The discrepancy is apparent because the profit is reckoned on the waterworks undertakings only, which yield a return, and not on the drainage works which do not.

There can be no doubt that on the present basis of our debts on railways and waterworks the advancement of the colony will show them in a more favorable condition year after year. If, however, we commit ourselves to political railways and other undertakings which multiply expense for interest before any revenue can be realised, or multiply interest on projects which never can pay, our condition as a people must grow worse and worse, as long as this unwise and ruinous course is followed. It cannot be to the interest of any growing or indeed matured community to enlarge its burdens year after year, when the actual result is to impoverish the masses on the one hand and to enrich the propertied classes on the other. The increase of those burdens, as can be seen from the tables we have published, tend in a direction which is vital to the working majority. It effectually places a fresh obstacle every year in the way of any relief being accorded to them from that system of class taxation which now presses so heavily on all who depend upon their exertions for a livelihood. It teaches those who strive to rise that it is hopeless for them to expect to rise above poverty so long as the price of their daily food, their rent, and their clothing, becomes each in its own degree a prey to those who monopolise the land, and who not only live upon but accumulate their wealth by the labor and the taxation of their poorer fellow-colonists. The only way in which it will be possible for us to avoid drifting into the misery of older states is to adjust taxation fairly. Let those who profit pay, but above all let those who monopolise the expenditure of the community pay first and pay most. It is right that all those who enjoy the protection of a state should pay something towards its cost. As it is now, the land owners take everything and give next to nothing. A recent author tells us that "while every citizen may properly be called upon to bear his fair share in all the expense of government, it is manifestly an infringement of natural rights to use the taxing power so as to give one citizen an advantage over another—to take from some the proceeds of their labor in order to swell the profits of others." Yet this is what we have been doing for at least the last thirty years.

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The following table shows how the interest upon our public debt has grown:—

Year. Population. Interest paid Rate per head. 1855 96 982 £ 7,000 £ s. 0 1 d. 5¼ 1856 104 708 11,500 0 2 2¼ 1857 109,917 24 579 0 4 5½ 1858 118,340 33,240 0 6 4¼ (a)1859 122,375 21,455 0 3 6 1859 60 124,112 47,315 0 7 7¾ 1860-1 126,830 49,300 0 7 9¼ 1861-2 135,329 31,687 0 4 3 (b) 1862-3 140,416 71,535 0 10 2¼ 1863-4 147,341 51 069 0 6 11 1864-5 156,605 49,749 0 6 4¼ (c) 1865 160,028 23 886 0 4 2¼ 1866 163,452 46,530 0 5 8¼ 1867 172,860 51,562 0 5 1½ (d) 1868 176,298 78,702 0 8 4¼ 1869 181,146 114 714 0 12 8 1870 183 979 107,856 0 11 8½ 1871 185,626 115,307 0 12 5 1872 192 223 115,375 0 12 0 1873 198 075 120,901 0 12 2½ (e) 1874 204,623 66,522 0 6 6 1874 5 210,442 143,425 0 13 7½ 1875-6 225, 677 179,618 0 15 5½ 1876-7 236,864 197,383 0 16 8 1877-8 248,795 233 430 0 18 9 1878 9 259,460 272,714 1 1 0½ 1879-80 267,573 362,764 1 7 1¼ 1880-1 286,324 432 233 1 10 2¼ 1881-2 296,509 479 128 1 13 10½ 1882-3 304,812 519,491 1 14 1 (5) 1883-4 315,480 571,273 1 16 2½ Less (d) .. Total ... £4,681,343 51,000 £4 580,313 (a) Half-year, January 1 to June 30. (b) Interest for three half years (c) Half-year, July 1 to December 31. (d) From the interest carried to account in this and the three following years £51,000 must be deducted, because the bonds stood at credit of immigration, and were subsequently cancelled without being used The actual payments per head for those years for interest will consequently stand thug—'68, 7s. 5¼d; '69, 11s 2½d; '70, 10s 4¼d; and '71, 11s. 0¾d. (e) Half-year, January 1 to June 30. (f) Where the odd shillings and pence were less than 10s they have been rejected. Where they exceeded the 10s. they have been carried on as £1.

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The Public Revenue & the Public Debt.

A reference to a table which appears in another portion of this issue will afford some insight into the curious and irregular manner in which the debt of South Australia has been accumulated The period included in it is thirty years, dating from 1854, when we first sought the assistance of foreign capital to develop the resources of the province, down to the end of 1882-3. For greater convenience of comparison the different changes which have been made in the time for opening and closing the financial year have not been noted, because if that had been done the calculations would have been considerably increased, whilst the general result would not have been at all affected. It will be seen that in five years only, namely, 1854-'55 and '56, and 1865 and '66, has our revenue exceeded our debt. The singular fluctuations which are apparent between the annual resources of the colony and the debt which has been generally accumulating, give evidence of the fact that in borrowing money from year to year the condition of our revenue, actual or prospective, has seldom, if ever, been taken into consideration. In other words the debts as contracted were never measured or controlled by the annual income, out of which the principal was to be repaid, and the interest supplied. Our revenue at the beginning of the term was something under £600,000, at its close it was over £2,000,000. The debt at the outset of I the period was £135,000, at its termination £13,908,700. To put the case simply—in the first year the debt was less than one-fourth of our revenue, in the last it was about six times as great as the revenue. What it will be in another two or three years may easily be foreseen.

During the whole of this time no special provision has been made to meet such contingencies as occasional serious fallings off in the amount of our income. Such accidents have not only not stopped us from resorting to the English money market, but in some instances deficiencies have actually been provided for by means of loans Besides this the revenue has been swelled on various occasions by additional Customs taxes, which to the largest extent were borne by the working classes, because the increased duties were placed upon articles that were necessaries and in common consumption. This expedient cannot be resorted to anyfurther. For some years past the most serious dissatisfaction has been expressed at the partial and onesided manner in which the colonial revenue has been raised. Those who hitherto paid all the taxes could get no relief in any direction, yet at the same time the public burdens were added to in a reckless manner, because those who were most interested in land practically swayed the destinies of the colony. It is for their benefit and mainly at their instigation that our public debt has grown to its present magnitude. Whilst those who have demanded railways, water supply, main roads, aid to district councils and corporations, schools, bridges, and the numberless wants which are continually pressed on the Government—the cost of which comes from the public coffers—have never troubled themselves to enquire how they were to be paid for or who was to pay. We have now before us a cash deficiency of something like £280,000 to provide for, and the only way of doing this is to confiscate as much of the unexpended balances as may be available at the close of the year, and to look out for some sources of revenue other than that at our command just now. Without having special regard to the deficiency at this moment we need only look to our obligation in respect of our debt, which must be met under any circumstances. The interest alone, including the bonds recently sold in London, will amount for 1884-5 to £637,325. Six per cent. bonds to the amount of £53,400 will mature during the year and must be retired The total sum payable for the public debt will thus amount to £690,727. This will absorb the whole of the Customs revenue, or an equivalent amount, even if the estimate made for this year should be realised, which is not at all probable, with nearly £73,000 to boot. It may be asserted as a matter of certainty that in the course of the coming session the Parliament will be asked to authorise further loans to construct certain lines of railway and other works to which the Government and many of the new members stand committed. It may also confidently be expected that the Legislative Council will accept the recommendations of the House of Assembly as far as the greater part of these may be concerned. It is by no means certain, however, that they will be as ready to tax page 12 themselves by passing a land tax as they have been and are likely to be willing to take advantage of the State expenditure on works which help to swell the value of their possessions. Lest session they refused to agree to a tax equal to a halfpenny in the pound. The figures which we have quoted above point very clearly to the conclusion that that amount will not go far either towards making up the existing deficiency or providing for the newly-created liabilities; but unless they have been taught something by the results of the recent general election the members of our Upper Chamber are not likely to be more compliant this year than they were last year.

It is abundantly clear that the colony cannot be brought to a standstill because property-owners do not choose to recognise either the obligations they owe to the country or the amount of those obligations. The actual sum spent on works which have benefited private estates generally is really but a small portion of the sacrifices which the masses have been compelled to make, and which are still demanded from them, in order to meet the huge debt, in the application of which they have had no share The debt itself, including the bonds just placed on the market, may be taken at £15,508,700. For this there has already been paid as interest £4,580,313 We have already taken from the people in Customs duties £8,934,366. The two amounts—that is the Customs duties and the interest—taken together make the sum of £13,514,679, which nearly equals the amount of the colonial debt at the end of last year, viz., £13,908,700. The expenditure of the first of these amounts has brought no advantage whatever to the individual taxpayer. It represents a constant steady drain upon his personal resources. It is not counted or measured so as to touch all men alike, but the drain is the greater according as his means are small and his family large. It may be true that the laborer does not pay as much towards the Customs as a clerk or person who possesses an income of a few hundreds a year—but he pays more in proportion, because he can afford only to touch bare necessaries. The indulgence in the small luxuries and comforts of furniture in his case must be confined to such articles as are absolutely indispensable—ornaments and decorations even of the most common description being quite beyond his means. And so in the same way the mechanic, clerk, or the one who has a few hundreds per year, pays more than those who own the land, who monopolise it, who enjoy and profit by the public expenditure upon it. The £13,500,000 taken from the majority in the shape of taxes and interest has disappeared as completely as raindrops disappear in a stream. The £13,900 000 of borrowed money spent on works is ever bringing more and more into the coffers of the wealthy, who have not earned it, who have contributed nothing towards it, except their personal influence to make it greater from year to year. It seems a monstrous thing that the poorer classes should be plundered in the course of a single generation of thirteen millions and a half of money in order that the landed interest should enjoy the exclusive profits of £13,900,000 besides, which has been raised at the cost of the former class, in addition to the sum that has been unjustly and improvidently taken from them and their families, So long as such a state of things is permitted to obtain, for so long must the hope of any fair adjustment of the incidence of taxation be deferred. The present session must bring the question to a practical issue. Should the Legislative Council again prove to be obstructive another general election, in which honorable gentlemen" will be included, will show definitely whether the people will be content to be trifled with in the future as they have been in the past.

The following table shows the increase of the public debt as compared with the revenue :—
Year. Revenue. Debt. Proportion of revenue to debt.
£ £ per cent.
1854 595,536 135,000 77.32*
1855 453 641 135,000 70.25
1856 479,978 294,900 61.25
1857 455,211 597,700 31.30
1858 569,637 662,000 16.22
1859 511,927 830 200 62.17
1860 438,827 870,100 98.27
1861 558,587 866,500 37.20
1862 548 709 853,300 55.51
1863 63l,700 866 850 37.22
1864 775,838 839,300 8.11
1865 1,089,129 796,800 73.10
1866 949,774 775 600 81.65
1867 716 295 1,077,700 50.46
1868 716,004 1,663,100 132.27
1869 779.351 1,781,300 129.15
1870 657,576 1,944,700 195.74
1871 778,094 2,167,700 178.59
1872 697 442 2,094,800 200.35
1873 972,814 2,174.900 222.54
1874 1,003,820 2,989,750 197.83
1875 1,143,312 3 320,600 190.43
1876 1,320,205 3,837,200 181.56
1877 1,441,401 4,737,200 228.65
1878 1,592,634 5,329,600 234.71
1879 1,662.497 6 605,750 267.86
1880 2 027,963 9 865,500 386.47
1881 2,171,987 11,196,800 415.51
1882 2,087,075 12 472,600 497.50
1883 2 092,286 13,908 700 564.76

* N.B.—The sign shown tbe rate at which the revenue exceeded the debt. The sign shows by how much the revenue fell short of the debt.

N.B.—The sign shown tbe rate at which the revenue exceeded the debt. The sign shows by how much the revenue fell short of the debt.