Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Beal, George Lansley (1869–1952)

by Paul D. Wilson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

George Lansley Beal (1869-1952), public servant, was born on 20 September 1869 in Brisbane, son of James Charles Beal, government printer, and his wife Mary Elizabeth, née Callaghan. Educated in Brisbane and at Newington College, Sydney, he joined the Queensland Public Service in January 1887 in the Government Printing Office and was appointed clerk there from January 1891.

Beal transferred to the Auditor-General's Office in 1897, becoming an inspector by 1899, examiner of accounts by 1902, and treasury inspector by 1905. In 1907 he joined the Treasury as accountant and registrar of Government Savings Bank inscribed stock. In 1915 he was promoted to chief clerk and accountant of the Treasury, and was then under-secretary from 1 January 1917 to 1 September 1926 when he was appointed auditor-general. He was also a member of the Brisbane Tramways Trust from November 1922 until December 1925 and chairman from 14 February 1925, and first chairman of the State Stores Board in 1923-24. From 1912 he had been a fellow of the Federal Institute of Accountants.

Early in 1917 Beal, as under-secretary of the Treasury, was involved in legal proceedings resulting from the T. J. Ryan government's attempt to regulate the wartime meat industry: separate writs for damages were issued against E. G. Theodore and Beal, as agents of the government, following the detention of Mooraberrie station cattle. The consolidated case, which was eventually resolved in the High Court, favoured the plaintiff.

Beal's first report as auditor-general, for 1925-26, ignited a political controversy for Premier W. McCormack over the state purchase some years earlier of the Chillagoe smelters and silver-lead mines at Mungana, North Queensland. The smelters had been running at a loss and Beal had been consulted in 1924 about writing off the accumulated deficit. In his official capacity he reported the continuing losses, questioned the assessment of ore values and cited examples of irregular accounting methods adopted by the smelters' manager. A. E. Moore, the Opposition leader, called for a royal commission which McCormack refused; instead, he empowered Beal to make a special investigation of the Chillagoe enterprise. His report, which appeared in August 1927 but not before McCormack had closed the smelters and accepted the manager's resignation, confirmed gross mismanagement of public funds, over-valuation of assets and questionable payments to preferred individuals. On the basis of his disclosures, Moore promised a royal commission if elected in May 1929, and next year redeemed his pledge by appointing J. L. Campbell to investigate what came to be known as the Mungana affair. Campbell found numerous irregularities in the acquisition and operation of the smelters and mines, some of which involved Theodore and McCormack; unsuccessful civil proceedings were instituted against them in 1931. Campbell also criticized 'the tacit connivance or, at least, the accommodating silence of the auditor-general' in the mismanagement of the enterprise. In a special report to parliament in September 1930, Beal made it clear that the reference was to his predecessor, and recapitulated his detailed adverse reports of 1926-28, rebutting any charge against his own integrity.

During his term of office, the auditor-general's responsibilities increased considerably with the growth in complexity of government and his added authority over local government accounts. Beal was a capable and conscientious public servant who remained a perfectionist throughout his career. Awarded the Imperial Service Order in 1929, he retired on 19 September 1939, after serving a record term. On 12 December 1893 in Brisbane, with Free Methodist rites, he had married Clementine Helen Godfrey; they had no children. He died at Wynnum on 14 October 1952 and was cremated; his estate was valued for probate at £8126.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland—Our Seventh Political Decade, 1920-1930 (Syd, 1931)
  • C. Lack, Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1926, 597-604, 1315-42, 1936, 1737-40
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 19 Sept 1939
  • Royal Commission on Mungana & Chillagoe mines, ROY/15-16, Ecc. file 1952/1755 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Paul D. Wilson, 'Beal, George Lansley (1869–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beal-george-lansley-5164/text8673, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018