§ 346. “Subject to the Charges and Liabilities Imposed by this Constitution.”

This is a stock provision, to be found in all the colonial Constitutions; except that the word “liabilities” is new, and is intended to meet the peculiar conditions of Commonwealth finance. The Consolidated Revenue Fund is, for purposes of collection and receipt, as much a single fund as the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom, or of any of the British colonies. But for purposes of appropriation, it is subject, under the distribution clauses of the Constitution, to somewhat rigid financial provisions, which constitute “liabilities” imposed upon the residue of the fund, after the charges upon it for federal expenditure have been satisfied.

The charges and liabilities imposed by the Constitution are:—(1) The costs, charges, and expenses incident to collection, management, and receipt (sec. 82); (2) the other expenditure of the Commonwealth (sec. 82); (3) any financial assistance which, during the currency of sec. 96, the Parliament may think fit to provide out of revenue; (4) the payments of surplus revenue to the States, on the basis prescribed for the time being (secs. 89, 93, 94).

Expenditure Charged Thereon.

82. The costs, charges, and expenses incident to the collection, management, and receipt of the Consolidated Revenue Fund shall form the first charge thereon347; and the revenue of the Commonwealth348 shall in the first instance be applied to the payment of the expenditure of the Commonwealth349.

CANADA.—The Consolidated Revenue Fund of Canada shall be permanently charged with the costs, charges, and expenses incident to the collection, management, and receipt thereof, and the same shall form the first charge thereon.—B N.A. Act, sec. 103; and see Constitutions of the Australian Colonies.

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HISTORICAL NOTE.—The clause as originally adopted in the Commonwealth Bill, 1891, followed the wording of the Canadian clause; and the words “The revenue of the Commonwealth shall be applied in the first instance in the payment of the expenditure of the Commonwealth” were prefixed to clause 9 (apportionment of surplus revenue).

At the Adelaide Session, 1897, the clause was introduced and passed as in 1891, but with the words “and the revenue..… Commonwealth” transferred from clause 9.

At the Melbourne Session, a suggestion of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, to omit the concluding words, was considered. Dr Quick pointed out that the clause might be regarded as a permanent special appropriation, dispensing with the need of Appropriation Acts—an argument which had been raised on sec. 45 of the Victorian Constitution Act. Mr. Barton promised consideration by the Drafting Committee. (Conv. Deb., Melb., p. 901; and see pp. 907–8.)

Drafting amendments:—Before the 1st Report, the word “permanently” was omitted to meet the objection. After the 4th Report, the clause was recast.