Controlling trade during the war

Increased prices of everyday commodities are generally a concern for consumers no matter the era or circumstance. Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, international events began to impact on prices of goods in Australia for a number of reasons, such as increases in rates for marine insurance and the loss of trade due to the confiscation of merchandise en route in German vessels. One company affected by these events, Burns Philp and Company, explained these reasons in a letter addressed to their customers dated 22 August 1914.

The Queensland Government were also strongly concerned about increased prices and enacted legislation to provide against “undue restriction of the supply of goods or undue raising of prices of goods during war”. The Control of Trade Act of 1914 came into force on Thursday 27 August 1914. Goods were defined as “all foodstuffs, commodities, goods, chattels, or things whatsoever which the Governor in Council, by Proclamation published in the Gazette, declares to be goods subject to this Act.”

Then on the 28 August a schedule of goods subject to the new act was proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor and supported by the Ministers of the Executive Council. The goods listed were:

bacon, biscuits, candles, cocoa, coffee, condensed milk, currants, drugs, flour, golden syrup, ham, infants’ food, jams, kerosene, maizemeal, meat, oatmeal, patent medicines, pearl barley, raisins, rice, rolled oats, salt, sugar, self-raising flour, tapioca, tea, tinned fish, tinned meat, tobacco, treacle, and wheatmeal.

On 25 September cream of tartar, citric acid, tartaric acid and carbonate of soda were also added.

Proclamation declaring certain goods to be subject to "The Control of Trade Act 1914", 28 August 1914
Proclamation declaring certain goods to be subject to “The Control of Trade Act 1914”, 28 August 1914

Additions and variations to this list were proclaimed as the war progressed and many proclamations have been digitised and are available to view in Image Queensland. Use the search term: control trade.

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