previous
next

§ 378. “Incurred Solely for the Maintenance or Continuance as at the Time of Transfer.”

To explain the purport of these words, some reference to the history of the section is necessary. The Bill of 1891 provided that all expenditure should be debited in proportion to population. The Adelaide Bill of 1897 distinguished between (1) expenditure incurred “in the performance of the services and the exercise of the powers transferred” from each State to the Commonwealth—which was to be charged against the State from which the department in question had been transferred—and (2) expenditure incurred “in the exercise of the original powers” given to the Commonwealth—which was to be charged, as before, according to population. (See Historical Note.)

The Finance Committee at Melbourne thought that the distinction required some definition; and to make it clear that expenditure in exercise of “original powers” included (1) expenditure in connection with the new central administrative staffs of the transferred departments, and (2) any extension of the transferred services which might be undertaken, the definition (cited in the Historical Note) was added. In bringing up the report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Reid explained this provision in the following words (Conv. Deb., Melb., p. 775):—

“The new clause does not differ in principle from the clause, which we propose should be omitted, but it re-arranges it to a certain extent, and clears up a difficulty which might arise in administration after the Commonwealth was established. Whilst it would be perfectly clear that the actual expenditure in the services transferred, on the basis existing at the time of the transfer, would be charged in a certain way, there would be some doubt left as to how new works—for instance, buildings or new developments made by the Commonwealth—should be charged. We came to the conclusion, and we did not think it a matter of very great consequence so far as administration is concerned, that, as to such new developments under the Commonwealth, they should be taken to follow the principle under which the expenditure in the exercise of the original powers of the Commonwealth is dealt with. For instance, supposing the Commonwealth built some permanent structure—a post office, a telegraph office, or perhaps some important fortification of a permanent character—it manifestly would not be fair to charge such works to the particular locality, especially as the system of distributing expenditure will, at the end of five years, give way to the ordinary per capita distribution. We have removed that difficulty, which would have arisen if the matter had not been dealt with.”

The words used seem fairly to carry out this intention, and whilst it is difficult to give any more exact definition of the items of expenditure, in connection with the transferred departments, which may properly under this provision be charged per capita, it is probable that in practical administration no serious difficulty will be raised. The Executive Government, in the preparation of its accounts, will be charged with the duty of interpreting the true scope of the provision, and it would seem that this—like other matters arising in connection with the book-keeping provisions—is a political matter, in which the political departments of the government must exercise an unhampered discretion.




  ― 835 ―
previous
next