Establishment and Functions
The Department was established in 1851 to administer the new Colony's finances, collect revenue and monitor expenditure.
During the period 1851 to 1982 the Department was variously known as:
Colonial Treasurer's Office 1851-1855
Treasurer's Office 1860-1883
Department of the Treasurer 1883-1958
As the economy of the Colony and later the State developed, the role of the Department expanded to encompass economic policy development, financial planning, resource management, investment and loan-raising, and budget preparation and monitoring.
Associated Authorities and Functions
A number of large statutory authorities with financial responsibilities came to be associated with the Department in the Treasurer's portfolio, including the State Bank (VA 1041); State Insurance Office (VA 1033), inherited from the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) in 1979; the State Taxation Office responsible for administering payroll and land tax, and the collection of probate and gift duties; State Tender Board, responsible for all government tenders and contracts over a specified amount, and the Stamp Duties Office. The Tender Board dates from the period 1851 to 1855, while the Treasury's responsibility for savings banks (inherited from the Chief Secretary (VA 475)) dates from 1896. The Treasury was responsible for probate and stamp duties from the 1870's, and for land tax (inherited from the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538)) from 1903. From 1851 until 1968 the Department also had responsibilities for liquor licence issue and registration (see VRG 23 Treasurer for more detail).
Agencies responsible for superannuation and pension schemes for government employees have also been included in the Treasurer's portfolio. In the pre-1982 period these included schemes relating to public servants, railway employees and teachers.
The earliest taxes imposed in Victoria were customs duties which were placed upon a range of imported and exported goods and were administered by the Department of Trade and Customs (VA 606) from 1851. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century the government introduced a number of taxes and duties administered by various offices within the Colonial Government. Amongst these taxes were; duties on estates of deceased persons, established under the Duties on the Estates of Deceased Persons Act 1870, a land tax established by the Land Tax Act 1877 and duties on the production of tobacco and beer.
Of all colonial taxes, import and export duties were by far the most significant, accounting for approximately one quarter of the Colony's revenue, however jurisdiction for all customs duties was transferred to the Commonwealth upon federation in 1901.
Income tax was introduced into Victoria in 1895 under the Income Tax Act 1895 (No.1374). This Act imposed a tax on all income derived by any person either by personal exertion of from the produce of property. It also introduced a tax on the revenue of companies. In order to administer this tax an income tax office was established within the Treasury. In the early part of the twentieth century the responsibilities of this office were enlarged to include the administration of other state taxes.
Although the Commonwealth introduced a separate income tax prior to the Second World War, the States remained the major collectors of income tax throughout this period. However, due to the increased financial demands placed upon it during the Second World War the Commonwealth Government passed legislation in 1942 which effectively removed from the States the right to collect income tax and established a uniform national tax system. To compensate the States for the loss of their income tax revenue a system of annual grants from the Commonwealth to the States was introduced. Initially these arrangements were to cease at the end of the war, but they were later extended indefinitely, the basis upon which grants were made changing from one of compensation for loss of previous tax revenue to one of States' needs.
Indirect Taxation 1950-1990
Throughout the 1950's and 1960's the Victorian Government introduced a number of indirect taxes to compensate for the loss of its income tax revenue. The State continued to administer probate duties, land tax, taxes on the issue of a range of licences, motor vehicle registrations and on betting through the T.A.B. and bookmakers takings, amongst others.
A division of the Department of the Treasurer continued to oversee the administration of these taxes and from the early 1970's onwards became known as the State Taxation Office or State Tax Office. In 1971 the right to impose payroll tax was transferred from the Commonwealth to the States and in Victoria the Payroll Tax Act 1971 (No. 8154) established a system for administering the tax. Since that time payroll tax has been the State's most important source of tax revenue.
In the 1980's the Commonwealth Government alone exercises the right to impose customs and excise duties, sales tax and personal and company income tax. The ambit of taxation now left to the States comprises motor taxation, stamp duties, liquor, land, lottery, racing, payroll and entertainment taxes. The collection of gift duties is shared between the Commonwealth and the States as are probate duties. The latter were abolished in Victoria on 1 January 1984. Since that time the State Tax Office has collected duties on a decreasing number of estates relating to deaths prior to 1984.
Transfers of Functions
Historically the Treasurer's Department has been responsible for a range of other functions, including post offices in 1856 and 1857; the administration of the estates of deceased persons and those incapable of managing their own affairs until 1931 when this responsibility passed to the Law Department (VA 2825); the Public Trustees Office from 1945 to 1949, a responsibility inherited from and passed back to Law (VA 2825); the administration of financial grants to the arts until 1972 when the Ministry of Arts (VA 1025) was established; and the Government Printer (VA 1035) until 1978 when it became part of the Department of Property and Services (VA 430).
In 1895 the Inspector of Charities was transferred to the Department from Chief Secretary's (VA 475) and in 1923 the Charities Board (VA 2707) was established to administer the Hospital and Charities Act 1922 (No. 3260). The Treasurer was responsible for the hospitals and charities function until 1944 when its administration was transferred to the Minister of Health (VRG 39).
From 1937 the Housing Commission (VA 508) was established within the Department of the Treasurer. It continued administratively to be part of the Department until 1973 when the Commission was transferred to the Ministry of Housing (VA 609), although from 1945 ministerial responsibility for the Commission was exercised not by the Treasurer but by the Minister of Housing (VRG 53).
Agencies responsible for registering and monitoring building and co-operative societies were located within the Department until 1973 when they were also transferred to the Ministry of Housing (VA 609).
Administrative Support to Head of Government
The Treasurer has frequently also been the head of government or Premier (see VRG 23 for further information).
Administrative support for the head of government function was initially provided by the Chief Secretary's Office within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). By 1883, in view of the fact that the head of government was no longer always the Chief Secretary, separate administrative arrangements were made and a Premier's Department or Office (VA 672) was established.
The functions of the Premier's Department on its establishment were set down in an Order-in-Council of 29 May 1883:
correspondence with other colonies, governments and the Agent-General
correspondence with the Governor, including despatches from the Secretary of State in Britain referred by the Governor to Ministers
matters referred to the Premier and Cabinet by other Ministers or departments for their consideration
other matters concerning the Premier
issuing Cabinet circulars and attending upon Cabinet (VA 2989)
matters relating to the Public Service as a whole.
The Office's role in the central co-ordination of Government policy gradually expanded. Following Federation in 1900 it also became responsible for relations with the Commonwealth and other States.
From 1884 to 1890 this Office functioned as a sub-department within the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865); from 1890 to 1894 as a separate Department of State; from 1894 to 1928 as a sub-department within the Chief Secretary's Department; and from 1928 to 1936 again as a sub-department within the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865).
From December 1936, the Department of the Premier (VA 2717) and from 1982 the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039) have assisted the Premier in his/her head of government functions and the co-ordination of government policies and programs.
The Public Service Board/Commissioner (VA 886) was also located in the Treasurer's Department from 1883 to 1894 and in 1936 and 1937.
Location of Records
The Public Record Office has substantial holdings of the Department of the Treasurer's records. The Treasurer's correspondence and financial records are an important source of information about many aspects of government administration as they provide details of the provision of funds to other departments and authorities, the activities being funded and how the money has been expended.
See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, sections 3.22.0 (Treasurer's records), 3.12.0. (Housing Commission and Registrar of Co-operative Housing Society records).