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James Vincent (Jim) Moroney (1898–1965)

by Derek Drinkwater

This article was published:

James Vincent (Jim) Moroney (1898-1965), public servant, was born on 17 December 1898 at Bochara, near Hamilton, Victoria, son of Australian-born parents Daniel William Moroney, schoolteacher, and his wife Jane Cecilia, née Silver. Educated at St Patrick's College, Ballarat, Jim entered the Commonwealth Public Service in Melbourne on 14 March 1916 as a clerk in the Prime Minister's Department. In 1925 he transferred to the Department of Markets and Migration; eight years later he was promoted to the marketing branch of the Department of Commerce (and Agriculture, 1942-56).

After a ten-year engagement, on 4 November 1939 at St Christopher's Catholic Church, Canberra, Moroney married Ivy Florence ('Billie') Davis, a 32-year-old typist. Appointed senior investigation officer (primary industry) that year, he became chief marketing officer in 1946 and assistant-secretary, marketing, in 1949. His rise in 1953 to first assistant-secretary, marketing, confirmed him as one of the right-hand men of (Sir) John Crawford, the secretary of the department. On 16 February 1956 Moroney was gazetted secretary of the new Department of Primary Industry. He held this position until 25 October 1962 when he accepted the chairmanship of the Australian Wheat Board, a post he was to retain until his death.

During his career Moroney participated in the activities of numerous marketing authorities, boards and committees involved with primary produce. Secretary (1943-51) of the Australian Agricultural Council, he was a member of the Australian Wine Board (1950-57), the Standing Committee on Agriculture (1956-62) and the Export Development Council (1959-62). He also served as chairman (1958-62) of the Central Tobacco Advisory Committee. In recognition of his service as deputy-chairman (1941-48) of the Australian Rabbit Skins Board and as chairman (1952-55) of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board, he was voted honoraria by those bodies in 1942 and 1954 respectively, although in both instances considerable persistence was called for on Moroney's part and that of his superiors to overturn Public Service Board objections.

When World War II had ended, Moroney was involved from the outset in international trade initiatives. In 1946 he visited London and attended the first session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council's committee which produced a draft compact, subsequently modified and approved (1947) as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. He led Australia's delegations to the international wool conference in Washington in 1951, and to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's conferences held in Rome in 1955, 1957 (vice-chairman), 1959 and 1961. In 1961-62 he represented Australia at negotiations in Britain and Europe over Britain's proposed entry into the European Economic Community.

As secretary of the Department of Primary Industry, Moroney helped to develop price stabilization and marketing plans for many Australian agricultural commodities, most notably wheat. He chaired the wheat quality conference which reported to the Australian Agricultural Council in 1960 on production and marketing. While chairman of the wheat board, he negotiated sales which disposed of three record harvests to the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and South East Asian countries. He was, as well, an architect of the 1963 wheat industry stabilization scheme. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1956 and elevated to C.B.E. in 1960. (Sir) Charles Adermann, the minister for primary industry, described him in 1962 as 'Australia's leading authority on the marketing of primary commodities'.

Moroney's strengths lay in negotiation and administration rather than policy formulation. Unconventional in attitude and behaviour, he was a colourful individual who cut a distinctive figure among the senior public servants of his day. Pugnacious, determined, tough and shrewd, he was gruff—even combative—in manner, given to strong language, and nonconformist by nature. He was also a gregarious man who relished a drink. For one who taxed his energies relentlessly, he enjoyed robust health. As a young man he had been an accomplished Australian Rules footballer and a champion snooker-player. In later life he played golf and lawn bowls. Survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, he died of cancer on 30 August 1965 at his Forrest home and was buried in Canberra cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Trends (Sydney), vol 6, no 2, Dec 1963, p 6
  • Wheat Board Gazette, vol 17, no 4, Sept 1965, p 1
  • Canberra Times, 31 Aug 1965
  • A2974/1, P74/254: Moroney, J. V. (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Derek Drinkwater, 'Moroney, James Vincent (Jim) (1898–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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