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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jackson, Lawrence Stanley (1884–1974)

by Ian Castles

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Lawrence Stanley Jackson (1884-1974), taxation commissioner, was born on 2 April 1884 at Stepney, Adelaide, son of William Samuel Jackson, an engine driver from England, and his South Australian-born wife Mary, née Norton. Lawrence was educated at Pulteney Street School. In 1903 he joined the Commonwealth Public Service as a clerk in the Postmaster-General's Department. Transferring to the Federal taxation office, Adelaide, in 1911, he was to spend the remainder of his working life in taxation administration. On 21 March 1912 he married Hazel Winifred Powell (d.1939) at the Methodist Church, Norwood. He was promoted senior assessor (1916), assistant deputy commissioner, Sydney (1920), secretary in the central office, Melbourne (1925), and deputy-commissioner, Sydney (1929).

In 1932, as the senior Federal taxation officer in New South Wales, Jackson was closely involved in the confrontation between the Commonwealth and State governments which reached its climax in the final days of the premiership of J. T. Lang. Jackson subsequently revealed (Sydney Morning Herald, 12 August 1970) that, on 30 April 1932, the Commonwealth assistant-treasurer (Sir) Walter Massy-Greene had instructed him and other officials to break into locked floors of the New South Wales government taxation office and remove documents which were being held under guard by the State authorities. Massy-Greene was persuaded to withdraw the order.

Jackson played a major role in the negotiations which achieved substantially uniform taxation Acts for the States and the Commonwealth in 1936. Moving to Canberra, he became second commissioner that year. On 6 May 1939 he was appointed commissioner of taxation. Significant administrative changes occurred during his commissionership, including the establishment of the Commonwealth as the sole authority for assessing and collecting income tax (1942), and the introduction of 'pay-as-you-earn' and provisional taxation (1944). The associated work imposed a heavy burden on him. Although offered reappointment, he retired on 5 May 1946 at the expiration of his term.

Throughout his career Jackson was recognized by his colleagues as a dedicated and conscientious officer. His approach to his work was captured in an application for promotion, made at age 33, in which he wrote that he had 'endeavoured to keep pace with the expert work of the [taxation] department by sacrificing my private time and study to the various taxation acts, and by a complete devotion of the whole of my energies'. In 1949 he was commissioned to edit the official 'War-time Taxation History 1939-1945'; the two unpublished volumes are held by the Australian Taxation Office Library, Canberra. S. J. Butlin wrote in a foreword in 1954 that 'the work as a whole bears the stamp of Mr Jackson's passion for accuracy and meticulous attention to detail'.

At St Leonard's Presbyterian Church, Brighton Beach, Melbourne, on 29 April 1944 Jackson had married Phyllis Lee Vale, a stenographer; after his retirement they lived in Melbourne and then in Adelaide. Survived by his wife, and by the two sons and one of the two daughters of his first marriage, he died on 7 August 1974 in North Adelaide and was cremated. His elder son Sir Lawrence Jackson was chief justice (1969-77) of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Apr, 3, 7 May 1932, 22 Oct 1949, 12 Aug 1970
  • Jackson papers (National Library of Australia)
  • Jackson file, A6899/1 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Ian Castles, 'Jackson, Lawrence Stanley (1884–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 10 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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