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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Carver, Sir Stanley Roy (1897–1967)

by Margot Kerley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Sir Stanley Roy Carver (1897-1967), statistician and economist, was born on 7 February 1897 at Goulburn, New South Wales, third child of Arthur James Carver, hairdresser, and his wife Martha Ann, née Studman, both native-born. Educated at Newcastle High School, on 6 April 1916 Stan joined the New South Wales Department of Public Instruction as a clerk. That year he enrolled as an evening student at the University of Sydney where he was to study English and economics (B.A., 1921). Carver enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 June 1918, served briefly in France after the Armistice and was discharged in Sydney on 5 September 1919. He married Frances (Fanny) Harriet Horberry on 25 November 1922 at the Methodist Church, Eastwood.

In February 1920 he had been appointed compiler, first grade, in the State Bureau of Statistics and Registry of Friendly Societies and Trade Unions. His designation was changed in 1923 to compiler and literary assistant, positions which enabled him to develop his aptitude for statistics. In the 1920s Carver contributed to successive editions of the Official Year Book of New South Wales which included a notable section on the State's industrial history; he was seconded in 1929 as secretary to the royal commission into the coal industry, chaired by (Sir) Colin Davidson. Promoted assistant government statistician (in the renamed Bureau of Statistics and Economics) in 1933, Carver accepted varied and extensive responsibilities at a time when administrative departments employed few professional economists. He assisted (Sir) Bertram Stevens's government to grapple with the financial problems of the Depression and in 1936 accompanied Stevens on a visit to Britain. There, Carver met the economists J. M. (Baron) Keynes and Colin Clark.

Carver's 'extensive unpublished research' on income distribution was used by Clark and J. G. Crawford in their work, The National Income of Australia (Sydney, 1938). On 5 August 1938 Carver was appointed government statistician. After World War II began, he held the additional (Federal) responsibility of acting-deputy prices commissioner in New South Wales. In 1940, while retaining his State position, he was selected to perform the duties of Commonwealth statistician in the absence of (Sir) Roland Wilson. The arrangement continued until 1946, was resumed in 1948 and was formalized in March 1951 with Carver's appointment as acting Commonwealth statistician.

Centralized wartime planning had required the development of new statistical indices of manpower, production and prices. During the 1950s Carver gave 'personal attention' to the formulation of successive retail price statistics: the 'C' Series Index, the Interim Retail Price Index and the Consumer Price Index. The use of social surveys as planning tools was inaugurated by H. P. Brown and D. V. Youngman, under Carver's direction. Despite his initial distrust of 'sampling methods', in the early 1950s surveys were conducted of retail establishments, and of wage and salary taxpayers.

The key involvement of the Bureau of Census and Statistics in the Federal government's economic planning led to the recognition of a need for 'a unified national organization' which would 'satisfy modern demands'. With persistence and tact, Carver convinced the separate State offices to unite with the Commonwealth. After the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act was passed in 1956, agreements were reached with individual States for an integrated statistical service under Carver who was confirmed as Commonwealth statistician on 20 August 1957.

Sometimes listed as one of the 'seven dwarfs'—a group of Federal public servants who were influential in economic policy-making during and after World War II—Carver was essentially a statistician, 'with a statistician's respect for the value of evidence'. His professional scepticism was matched by his painstaking effort. The postwar expansion of his field was achieved without compromising his standards of 'sound and acceptable data'. Appointed O.B.E. (1954) and knighted in 1962, Carver retired from both his Commonwealth and State posts on 6 February that year. The Statistical Society of Australia made him an honorary life member in 1966.

A quiet, retiring man, Sir Stanley played golf and enjoyed the bush. He died of acute pulmonary oedema on 22 July 1967 at Ryde, Sydney, and was cremated; his wife, son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Forster and C. Hazlehurst, Australian Statisticians and the Development of Official Statistics (Canb, 1988)
  • Economic Record, 43, Dec 1967
  • Australian Journal of Statistics, 10, no 1, Apr 1968
  • E. K. Foreman, Development and Co-ordination Division'—Historical Note (typescript, 1977, Australian Bureau of Statistics Library, Belconnen, Canberra).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Margot Kerley, 'Carver, Sir Stanley Roy (1897–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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