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Sir Roderick Consett Proctor (1914–1991)

by Brian F. Stevenson

This article was published:

Sir Roderick Consett Proctor (1914-1991), accountant and businessman, was born on 28 July 1914 at Neutral Bay, Sydney, son of New South Wales-born parents Frederick William Proctor, insurance inspector, and his wife Ethel May, née Christmas. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and Hale School, Perth, Roderick left school at the age of sixteen. With his family he moved to Queensland in 1937 and joined the accounting firm of Clarke & Son which later merged with Hungerford, Hancock & Offner (eventually KPMG Peat Marwick). In the late 1930s he was an amateur rowing champion, representing Queensland and Australia in rowing and sculling contests.

Appointed as a lieutenant, Australian Army Service Corps, Australian Imperial Force, on 15 November 1940, Proctor performed supply duties with the 9th Division in the Middle East, serving at Tobruk, Libya (1941), and El Alamein, Egypt (1942), and was mentioned in despatches for his conduct at Tobruk. He was attached to senior headquarters in Papua and New Guinea (1943-44) and Advanced Allied Land Forces Headquarters in the Netherlands New Guinea and East Indies in 1945, rising to major (1944). For his contribution to supply planning for the Borneo operations in 1945, he was appointed MBE (1947). His ‘organizing ability, unflagging energy,’ and ‘tact, courtesy and cheerfulness’ impressed his superiors (NAA B883). On 13 December 1946 in Brisbane he transferred to the Reserve of Officers. He later commented that ‘the army discipline [and] the methods of command and delegation provided a good grounding’ for later life (Grant 1987, 13).

Proctor had married Kathleen Mary Murphy (d. 1978), a receptionist, at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney’s Catholic basilica, on 19 March 1943. He resumed his pre-war occupation in 1947, becoming a partner in 1951 and a senior partner in 1966. In 1976 he retired to concentrate on his many directorships. He was chairman, director, or partner in dozens of firms, notably Bundaberg Sugar from 1965 to 1986 and the SGIO Building Society (later Suncorp) from 1979 to 1985. On the recommendation of the State National-Liberal coalition government, he was knighted in 1978 for services to the business community.

Sir Roderick’s attitude and outlook appeared typical of prominent and wealthy businesspeople in Premier (Sir) Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland. In a 1981 interview he saw ‘a bright and promising future for Queensland’ and commented that the state’s ‘private enterprise government’ was ‘doing a good job’ (McPhee 1981, 18). Four years later, in September 1985, he was sacked as chairman of the SGIO Building Society. Some observers had predicted his removal after he defied Bjelke-Petersen by supporting the introduction of poker machines. Following his dismissal Proctor criticised the government for its apparent intrusion into private industry. He had been a trustee of the National Party since 1978, and his public pronouncements provoked the ire of many in the party. In a radio interview in May 1986 he claimed that the Queensland economy was ‘not in good shape’ (Aust. Senate 1986, 1014) and that Queensland was being outperformed by some Labor states.

On 22 October 1986, just days before the Queensland State election, Proctor accused the National government of cronyism and suspect tendering practices: ‘On a number of occasions tenders have been called when it was fairly obvious this was only a charade and . . . it had already been decided who was to be granted the contract’ (Courier-Mail 23 October 1986, 1). He said that Queensland did not really qualify as a free-enterprise state and that, in many ways, it was the most socialist state in Australia.

Proctor added that he disagreed with the National Party’s description of Queensland as the lowest-taxed state and described government opposition to poker machines as ‘illogical and hypocritical’ (Courier-Mail 23 October 1986, 1). In his capacity as chairman of Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast, Proctor had lobbied unsuccessfully not only for the introduction of poker machines but also for a cut in government tax from 20 percent (which Proctor believed to be the highest casino tax in the world) to 10 percent. The premier characterised his attack as the result of ‘sour’ feelings (Courier-Mail 23 October 1986, 1). Sir Robert Sparkes, the National Party president, accused him of participating in a Liberal Party set-up, the Nationals and Liberals having been at loggerheads since the break-up of the coalition in 1983. Russ Hinze, a senior National Party minister, claimed that Proctor was ‘the architect of cronyism in this state’ (Courier-Mail 24 October 1986, 4). Proctor resigned from the party a few days later.

At an electorally sensitive time, Proctor’s outspoken criticism of the government isolated him from his peers, but enhanced his reputation for personal integrity. Though his political activity was finished, his business interests kept him busy. At the time of the controversy he was chairman of six public companies and director of a further five, worked a ten- to twelve-hour day five days a week, and travelled extensively.

Described as ‘tall, healthy-looking, genial and urbane . . . with a Gold Coast tan’ (Trundle 1986, 5), Sir Roderick was a notably handsome man, with luxuriant white hair, a square jaw, and a military-style moustache. He had married Janice Marlene Pryor, a stenographer, in a civil ceremony at his residence in Brisbane on 15 May 1980. Survived by his wife and the four children from his first marriage, he died from pancreatic cancer on 30 August 1991 in Brisbane and was cremated.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Australia. Senate. Journals, no. 107. 28 May 1986, 1014
  • Charlton, Peter. ‘Proctor Praised as a Man of Courage.’ Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 4 September 1991, 13
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane). ‘Now is Time to Join Up – Tobruk Digger.’ 18 August 1941, 4
  • ‘Nationals’ Trustee Revolts.’ 23 October 1986, 1
  • ‘Party Needs a Miracle Now, Says Sparkes.’ 24 October 1986, 1
  • ‘With a Friend like Sir Rod . . . .’ 24 October 1986, 4
  • ‘Hinze Thanks Proctor.’ 24 October 1986, 13
  • ‘Sir Roderick Proctor Resigns from Nationals.’ 3 November 1986, 1
  • Grant, Heather. ‘Business Profile: Sir Roderick Proctor.’ Daily Sun (Brisbane), 21 February 1987, 13
  • Grant-Taylor, Tony. ‘Knight Who Lost Faith with Qld Nats.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 3 September 1991, 27
  •   Howard, Steve. ‘Government Sacks Sir Roderick.’ Daily Sun (Brisbane), 5 September 1985, 5
  • McPhee, Lynette. ‘Interview: Sir Roderick Proctor.’ Australian Stock Exchange Journal, May 1981, 18
  • National Archives of Australia (NAA). B883, QX6447
  • Trundle, Peter. ‘Sir Roderick’s Big Gamble.’ Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 24 October 1986, 5.

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Citation details

Brian F. Stevenson, 'Proctor, Sir Roderick Consett (1914–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2014, accessed online 19 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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