Illicit Booze And A Pair of Budget Smugglers

Alcohol smuggling has always been a part of early Australian history, and a good deal of it centred the arrival of ships into major ports such as Sydney Harbour. Absinthe smuggling was no exception.

Sydney Morning Herald 7 July 1902

The following excerpts from Reinhardt & Steel (2006) A Brief History of Australia’s Tax System (22nd APEC Finance Ministers’ Technical Working Group), gives us the historical context that often promoted smuggling.

At the end of the eighteenth century, colonial administrators raised small amounts of revenue through wharfage fees and port entry and exit fees (effectively taxing imports), with additional duties on alcohol.


The main appeal of customs duties was that they were readily collected at the limited number of wharves where goods entered the colonies. Levying customs duties and excises on necessities also ensured a relatively secure source of revenue. Revenues were generally hypothecated in an attempt to draw support from the public, for example funding an orphanage, gaol, hospital equipment and building works around Sydney.


Early customs and excises duties on goods such as tobacco and alcohol were intended not only to raise revenue, but were also introduced as ‘sin taxes’, for example in response to concern over the level of alcohol consumption in the colonies.


The states gave up customs and excise duties to secure interstate free trade and ensuring adequate protection for Australian industry. Uniform federal tariff and excise duties were introduced in 1901. They largely applied to the goods that had been taxed by the former colonies — tobacco products, beer and spirits and some basic food and clothing.

Sydney Morning Herald 17 March 1906

Jonathan Apr 22nd 2011 11:12 am History,News,Regulations No Comments yet Trackback URI

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