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Hiley, Sir Thomas Alfred (Tom) (1905–1990)

by Manfred Cross

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Sir Thomas Alfred (Tom) Hiley (1905-1990), accountant and politician, was born on 25 November 1905 in Brisbane, fourth of six children of William Hiley, an English-born Commonwealth public servant, and his wife Maria, née Savage, from Brisbane. Educated at Brisbane Central State and Brisbane Grammar schools, in 1921 Tom joined the State public service; he worked in the Public Service Commissioner’s Department and the State Audit Office while studying accountancy. He entered private practice as a public accountant in 1926, becoming a partner next year with C. A. Le Maistre Walker, Brisbane. On 11 October 1929 at the Methodist Church, West End, he married Marjory Joyce Jarrott (d.1972), a schoolteacher.

Admitted to membership (1933) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, Hiley was Queensland chairman (1942-44) and federal president (1946-48). In 1935-75 he was on the board of the faculty of commerce, University of Queensland; he wrote Solicitors’ Trust Accounts (1941). During World War II he developed a significant practice while serving as honorary treasurer of the Queensland Patriotic Fund and the State division of the Australian Comforts Fund. His practice was to become T. A. Hiley, Jarrott & Doggett in 1957.

Disillusioned with the United Australia Party, in 1943 Hiley joined a group of businessmen led by (Sir) John Chandler that formed the Queensland People’s Party. In April 1944 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Logan. He was later to represent Coorparoo (1950-60) and Chatsworth (1960-66). Chandler, as leader of the parliamentary party, failed to make an impact on the Labor government, and was replaced by Bruce Pie in May 1947 and by Hiley in February 1948. Hiley soon proved to be an effective, hard-working and respected leader; he was later described by Clem Lack as the most polished debater in the Queensland parliament since Tom Ryan. In July 1949 the QPP became the Liberal Party of Australia, Queensland division; at the 1950 election its primary vote was 29.91 per cent. Hiley resigned as leader in August 1954, claiming that his salary was inadequate, and the energetic but less capable (Sir) Kenneth Morris was elected in his place.

On 12 August 1957 the Country Party-Liberal Party coalition took office, with (Sir) Frank Nicklin as premier. Appointed treasurer and minister for housing, Hiley resigned his business interests as an accountant and as a director of companies that had included Appleton Industries Ltd, Burley Industries Ltd, Cribb & Foote Ltd and Keith Morris Construction Ltd. He was a competent administrator who helped to develop an effective cabinet, the members of which had no previous experience in government. His first achievement was to establish a cabinet secretariat to formalise the decision-making process. A firm coalitionist, he supported the Electoral Districts Act (1958), which continued the zonal system of redistribution.

As treasurer Hiley soon set up a system of transferring unused loan entitlements between local authorities so that Queensland’s allocation from the Australian Loan Council could be raised and spent. In 1958 he introduced a new format for the budget papers that made the State’s financial affairs easier to understand. The Treasury Funds Investment Act Amendment Act (1960) enabled Treasury to obtain a better return by investing in the short-term money market. Computers were introduced and more economists employed. Hiley negotiated finance for economic development, including the rebuilding of the railway line between Mount Isa, Townsville and Collinsville. He provided funds for the construction of more high schools and for improvements to education generally. Working to increase the financial reimbursement from the Commonwealth, he also introduced legislation to reform succession and probate duties, gift duties and land tax. In 1960 legislation widened the powers of the State Government Insurance Office as to its investments. Benefits relating to workers’ compensation were boosted. Hiley sponsored the introduction in 1962 of the Totalisator Administration Board of Queensland. A boating enthusiast, he ensured that more jetties and boat ramps were built. Fisheries inspectors were provided with modern vessels and fish sanctuaries were gazetted.

Hiley developed sound relationships with senior public servants such as Sir James Holt and advanced the careers of capable and energetic officers, including (Sir) Allan Sewell, under-treasurer (1961-69), B. E. Riding, general manager of the SGIO (1963-71), and (Sir) Leo Hielscher, assistant under-treasurer (1964-69). As minister for housing, he introduced legislation enabling the Queensland Housing Commission to sell houses to reliable tenants and to build flats; and permitting developers to construct canal estates. In January 1965 Hiley was again elected leader of the party; he resigned as both leader and treasurer on 23 December and retired from parliament at the election in 1966. He was knighted that year; the University of Queensland had conferred on him an honorary M.Com. In 1959. In 1974 he was made a life member of the ICA.

Hiley settled at Tewantin, where he participated in community affairs. He took on directorships of several companies from 1967, including Appleton Industries Ltd, Evans Deakin Industries Ltd, Austral Motors Holding Ltd and Keith Morris Construction Ltd. In 1973-80 he was also a board-member of R.T.Z. Pillar Pacific Pty Ltd (later Pillar Industries Pty Ltd) and in 1973-77 of Alfred Grant Holdings Ltd. A keen sportsman, he enjoyed duck-shooting and fishing; when young he had played tennis and golf and in later years he took up lawn bowls, winning several club championships. He was president (1965-70) of the Queensland Cricket Association, Queensland chairman from 1966 of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme in Australia, and chairman of trustees (1968-74) of Brisbane Grammar School.

Well dressed and known for his red carnation and cigar, Sir Thomas was intelligent, warm and friendly. A man of integrity, he set himself high standards and demanded the same from others. In 1982 he alleged corruption in the Hanlon Labor government and revealed that Frank Bischof, a former police commissioner, had received graft payments. Survived by his two sons, he died on 6 November 1990 at Cooroy and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Lack, Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (1962)
  • M. I. Thomas and M. Wales, From SGIO to Suncorp (1986)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 9 Nov 1990, p 4754
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 27 Oct 1943, p 3, 17 Apr 1944, p 1, 16 Aug 1954, p 9, 18 Sept 1982, p 1, 7 Nov 1990, p 9
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 30 Sept 1950, p 5
  • S. Lunney, interview with T. Hiley (transcript, 1974, National Library of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Manfred Cross, 'Hiley, Sir Thomas Alfred (Tom) (1905–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hiley-sir-thomas-alfred-tom-12634/text22763, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 21 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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