Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jennings, Douglas Bernard (Doug) (1929–1987)

by Donald S. Garden

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

Douglas Bernard (Doug) Jennings (1929-1987), businessman and politician, was born on 30 October 1929 at Glenhuntly, Melbourne, second surviving son of (Sir) Albert Victor Jennings (d.1993), auctioneer, and his wife Ethel Sarah, née Johnson. Educated at Murrumbeena State, Ivanhoe Grammar and Melbourne Church of England Grammar schools, Doug was a keen and able sportsman, winning championships in swimming and boxing and representing Victoria in water polo and swimming. In 1947 he joined the speculative building company his father had founded in 1932, A. V. Jennings Industries Ltd, which had expanded to encompass the development of housing estates. On 11 November 1953 he married Patricia Downey.

Early in his work Jennings exhibited the characteristics that would shape his life: extroverted and popular, he was too outspoken and idiosyncratic to be a team leader. His enthusiasm first found a niche in sales and marketing, but his elder brother, Vic, and several senior executives, grew concerned at some of his innovations, including the establishment of furnishing and real-estate subsidiaries, especially given the company’s exposure to the Federal government’s 1960-61 credit squeeze.

Leaving the firm, Jennings moved to North Queensland in 1961 and took up the Mount Surprise Brahman cattle station. Building a highly successful business, again adopting several innovative practices, he also became active in community affairs, serving on the Etheridge Shire Council (1964-67) and joining the Queensland Country Party. He gave particular attention to the interests of his Aboriginal stockmen, introducing a superannuation scheme for them and paying award wages. Selling the property in 1968, he returned to Victoria and established the Mornington Park Brahman stud at Flinders. He was State founding chairman (1968-72) of the Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association.

Still a substantial shareholder in the family company, and with support from his father, Jennings began urging it to diversify into areas such as cattle breeding and mining. Family and company unrest led to A.V.’s resignation as chairman in 1972 and to Doug Jennings’s relinquishing his interests. Frustrated by planning controls on land development at Flinders, he entered politics and in 1976 won the Legislative Assembly seat of Westernport for the governing Liberal Party. He gained a reputation as a quixotic, outspoken advocate for public probity and, with his fellow Liberal Charles Francis, criticised his government for covering up corrupt land deals by the Housing Commission of Victoria. In 1977 he abstained from voting in support of (Sir) Rupert Hamer’s government in an Opposition no confidence motion, and in 1979 was expelled from the party. Later that year he stood unsuccessfully as an Independent.

In 1980, at the invitation of Premier (Sir) Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Jennings contested and won the Queensland State seat of Southport for the National Party. With views oscillating from far right to slightly left, at times he was a thorn in the side of his government but held his seat with increasing majorities. Already a trustee of the Victorian Aboriginal Advancement League, he now sought to improve policies relating to Queensland Aboriginal communities. He also saved from development a spit of land on the Gold Coast, part of which was later named the Doug Jennings Park.

Divorced in 1980, Jennings married Susan Frances Leister, a secretary, at Mornington on 28 February 1981. They were divorced in 1984. He remained obsessed with physical fitness, ignoring the signs of over-exertion. On 9 April 1987 Doug Jennings died of coronary heart disease in the sauna of the gymnasium at Parliament House, Brisbane. Survived by a son and daughter of his first marriage, he was buried in Flinders cemetery, Victoria. His estate was valued for probate at $3,820,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Builders to the Nation (1992)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 14 Apr 1987, p 1195
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 10 Apr 1987, p 5
  • Age (Melbourne), 15 Apr 1987, p 16
  • Gold Coast Bulletin, 16 Dec 1987, p 4
  • private information.

Citation details

Donald S. Garden, 'Jennings, Douglas Bernard (Doug) (1929–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jennings-douglas-bernard-doug-12698/text22891, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 30 August 2014.

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

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