Tax Resistance in North Australia

The New York Call, in its “Socialist Party News” section, covered tax resistance in Australia in one of its 1921 issues:

N. Australia in Revolt, Refuses to Pay Taxes

People Demand Representation in Parliament — Move to Free Jailed Rebels.

Red Flag Displayed

Banners and Songs of Revolution Greet Minister on Steamer — Sailors Join Movement.

by W. Francis Ahern.
(Federated Press Staff Correspondent.)

Residents in the Northern Territory of Australia are in a state of revolt. They refuse to pay any taxes unless given direct representation in the Australian Parliament.

At the present time they are denied direct political representation on the grounds that the population of the territory (2,500) does not entitle them to a parliamentary representative.

Several hundreds have been prosecuted for refusing to pay the taxes, and every one brought before the court has preferred to go to jail rather than pay the taxes. The government imprisoned about a score, then got “cold feet” and refused to send any more to jail. Then the residents drew up a monster petition, which almost everybody signed, and insisted on the government standing up to its own laws by taking action against them. They also defied the government to put them into jail.

Demand Release.

They also made a demand that the men in jail be released, threatening to take steps to release them if the government did not do so. They were only restrained from taking direct action by their leaders — who prefer a policy of passive resistances. Meanwhile, the local bands assemble daily outside the jail at Port Darwin and play the “Red Flag” and the “Marseillaise,” while the residents hold meetings, listen to red-hot addresses, and give cheers for the men behind the bats.

The Australian Minister for Home and Territories, Mr. Boynton, who was on an official visit to the territory at the time, trying to pour oil on the troubled waters, was forced to fly. Anticipating trouble, a gunboat was wirelessed for, and policemen and blue-jackets protected his ungracious exit from the territory.

On the day of his departure, , the people assembled in force, flew red flags, decorated the streets leading to the wharf with red bunting and red streamers. As the minister made his way to the waiting steamer at the wharf he was hooted and jeered by the residents. A handful of government officials gave three cheers for the minister — 2,000 residents answered with hoots. The government officials started to sing “God Save the King” — but the bands refused to play the national air. They played “The Red Flag” instead, the residents joining in the singing in great spirit.

It was significant that the sailors joined the people in singing “The Red Flag.” The attitude of the people is distinctly revolutionary, and big developments are pending. Ninety-five per cent of the residents are militant unionists and say that they do not intend to pay the taxes or recognize the laws of the national parliament so long as they are denied direct political representation.