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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Newman, Harold Clive (1896–1983)

by John Wanna

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Clive Newman, by Jane Reid, 1983

Clive Newman, by Jane Reid, 1983

ACT Heritage Library, 008875

Harold Clive Newman (1896-1983), public servant, was born on 5 June 1896 at St Helena, Townsend, near Lucindale, South Australia, fifth of fifteen children of South Australian-born parents George Charles Newman, grazier, and his wife Maria Mary, née Carmichael.  Clive attended Charleston Provisional and Lobethal Public schools, near Adelaide.  In December 1910 he joined the Postmaster- General’s Department as a messenger boy.

Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 27 November 1914, Newman was posted to the 9th Light Horse Regiment.  At Gallipoli (May-December 1915) he was fortunate that the 9th was the reserve regiment for the disastrous attack on The Nek on 7 August.  In the second battle of Gaza, Palestine, on 19 April 1917 he was shot in the left elbow and was repatriated.  He was discharged as a sergeant on 1 October 1917 in Adelaide.

Newman resumed his employment in the post office and completed his education at the Adelaide School of Mines and Industries.  On 4 October 1919 at Pirie Street Methodist Church, Adelaide, he married Vesta Ward Deeble.  That year he passed the transfer examination to the Commonwealth Public Service’s third division and moved to the Department of Works and Railways, Adelaide.  After studying accountancy and secretarial practice at Hemingway & Robertson’s correspondence school he was admitted as an associate of the Federal Institute of Accountants in 1929.  As senior clerk in the department during the Depression he was charged with registering and finding work for the unemployed.  Transferred in 1932 to the Perth office, he was promoted in 1938 to a position in the Department of Works, Canberra.  He worked briefly in Sydney and in 1941 was appointed chief finance officer in the defence division of the Treasury, Melbourne.  Public service inspector for Western Australia in 1946, he was recalled in 1947 to the Treasury, Melbourne, as assistant secretary, defence division.  In 1955 he became Commonwealth auditor-general and moved permanently to Canberra.

As Australia’s seventh auditor-general, Newman delivered five annual and four supplementary financial reports.  Expeditious in presenting his reports, he delivered his first one in September—the earliest delivery since Federation.  In 1958 and 1959 he submitted his report in August.  Firm but non-adversarial, he stated in his final annual report (1960) that audit 'must rest on close co-operation by the auditor with the executive and the administration, rather than on reporting disharmony'.  Often agitated by the personal use of government cars, the non-use of airline tickets, thefts from defence stores, fire damage and profligate use of ballpoint pens, he bitterly complained about losing qualified staff to other Commonwealth departments and the inferior status of the auditor-general compared to other department heads.  He served until his compulsory retirement in 1961.

Newman was elected a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries (1946), the Australian Society of Accountants (1953) and the Australian Institute of Management.  He was a trustee (1955-83) of the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (Returned Services League of Australia).  An active sportsman, he was patron of the Canberra Bowls Club.  He was appointed OBE (1954) and CBE (1960).  Predeceased by his wife, he died on 7 December 1983 in Canberra and was buried in the Charleston cemetery, South Australia.  One of his two daughters and his son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Wanna et al, From Accounting to Accountability (2001)
  • Annual Report of the Auditor-General, Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1960-61, vol 2, p 105
  • Canberra Times, 9 December 1983, p 8
  • I. Hamilton, taped interview with H. Newman (1981, National Library of Australia)
  • B2455, item B2455/1 (National Archives of Australia)

Citation details

John Wanna, 'Newman, Harold Clive (1896–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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