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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

Posted by Jonathan on Apr 22nd 2011 | Filed in History,News,Regulations | Comments (0)

The Smoking Gun

As promised last month, have finally uncovered the evidence to demonstrate that Australia did implement a formal ban of absinthe.

A small, almost easily missed notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 6 November 1925

Importation of Absinthe – Melbourne, Thursday

It is notified in the Commonwealth “Gazette” this week that absinthe has been added to the list of goods of which the importation into Australia is prohibited under the provenance <?> of the Customs Act.

So there you have it – the pieces now fall into place. Although, as with the current Customs requirements for an import permit for absinthe due to the listing of Wormwood as a Restricted ingredient – this legislative move would not have prevented the manufacture of Absinthe within Australia, it only prevents the unrestricted importation.  Alas, by this time the wind had probably been taken out of the sails of domestic absinthe consumption in any case.

Speaking of Smoking Guns – crime writer, administrator of Crimespace and absinthe tragic, Daniel Hatadi is formally joining the team.  Watch out for his reviews and views on anything that may take his fancy.

Posted by Jonathan on Jan 26th 2011 | Filed in Culture,History,News,People,Regulations | Comments (0)

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