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Walter David Bingle (1861–1928)

by Cecil Carr

This article was published:

Walter David Bingle (1861-1928), by unknown photograher

Walter David Bingle (1861-1928), by unknown photograher

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23194270

Walter David Bingle (1861-1928), public servant, was born on 12 April 1861 at Newcastle, New South Wales, second son of John Rayden Bingle, and his wife Frances Elizabeth, née Corlette. His paternal grandfather had migrated from Britain and worked as a surveyor of the east coast of Australia. Educated at Newcastle Grammar School, Bingle then spent ten years in his father's shipping agency and commission merchant's firm, Bingle & Co., in Pitt Street, Sydney. Towards the end of this period he served as vice-consul for the Netherlands and Italy. In 1885 he joined the New South Wales Public Service as a temporary clerk. He married Emily Pinhey at Ashfield on 19 October 1887; they had a son and three daughters.

On 1 July that year Bingle had received a permanent appointment in the Department of Lands. He became private secretary to several lands ministers, including J. N. Brunker, H. Copeland and (Sir) Joseph Carruthers, and to the premier (Sir) William Lyne . Bingle was closely involved in pre-Federation conferences and when in 1901 Lyne took home affairs in the first Commonwealth ministry, Bingle transferred to Melbourne with him and was soon promoted to chief clerk. From 1903 he was also marshal of the High Court of Australia and in 1905-06 temporarily assumed the additional duties of chief electoral officer.

In 1898 Bingle had been secretary to the imperial commission which developed a constitution for Norfolk Island, and in 1913 he went to Honolulu as a representative of the Commonwealth to meet the Empire Parliamentary Association delegation to Australia. He was acting head of the Department of Home Affairs in 1907-09 and 1914-16, and became secretary and permanent head of the Department of Works and Railways from 1917, until his retirement in 1926; in 1925 he was also commissioner for war service homes. In 1923 he had been awarded the Imperial Service Order.

Wilfred Blacket, the sole member of the 1916-17 royal commission on the Federal capital's administration, had adversely criticized the former minister and the officers of the Department of Home Affairs for hindering Walter Burley Griffin in carrying out the planning of Canberra. It was alleged that Bingle had been obstructive in delaying communication of vital information to Griffin. Blacket concluded in his report that officers, and particularly the minister W. O. Archibald, were hostile to Griffin and his design and preferred an alternative departmental plan for the city. Blacket also blamed wasteful expenditure at Canberra on lack of forethought and organization in the department. Bingle had been less directly involved than some of his colleagues. He expressed his views privately to a friend ten years later: 'The more I reflect on the strictures of the Blacket Commission report the more I realise how untrue were the findings as far as my motives were concerned. I honestly tried to do my best to advance Canberra, and to this day think that it would have been better to have had a committee of experts report on the Griffin plan (particularly engineers) and have it adopted by Parliament before proceeding'.

C. S. Daley described Bingle as 'reflective in temperament and easily moved', but 'dignified, of … kindly disposition, and [with] a good sense of humour when relaxed'. Bingle saw the great danger in Canberra as 'the likelihood of official life creeping in the social life'. 'The highest officially are not always the most desirable socially', he commented in 1927. He died of arteriosclerosis at Brighton, Victoria, on 7 August 1928, survived by his wife and two daughters, and was buried in Brighton cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Papers (Commonwealth), 1914-17, 2, 1067, 1917, 2, 1
  • C. S. Daley, ‘Much ado about nothing’, Canberra & District Historical Society, Papers, 1960
  • Herald (Melbourne), 23 Jan 1926
  • Groom papers (National Library of Australia)
  • Department of Home Affairs, papers (National Archives of Australia)
  • Department of Works and Railways, papers and printed schedules (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Cecil Carr, 'Bingle, Walter David (1861–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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