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George Tennyson Webb (1912–2007)

by George R. Webb

George Webb, n.d.

George Webb, n.d.

photograph privately sourced

George Tennyson Webb left school as soon as he turned 14 to support his four younger brothers and sister.

His first job was delivering grocery orders around Ballarat on his bicycle, which he did for a year before taking up a clerical position.

He remained there for three years while he completed his School Leaving Certificate and studied to be a practising accountant.

After sitting his final exams, Mr Webb was ranked third in Victoria with his results for the Commonwealth Institute of Accountants and third in Australia for the Association of Accountants of Australia.

He joined the Eureka Terra Cotta & Tile Co of Australia Ballarat office and was immediately placed under the wing of the company’s senior clerk Heathcote Hammer who became his mentor.

Hammer taught him boxing, cricket and golf and encouraged him to continue his studies.

In April 1930 Mr Webb took up the position of sub-accountant with I & R Morley, English textile manufacturers in Ballarat North.

He remained there until February 1933, when he left to take up a series of accounting appointments in Melbourne.

During WWII he was appointed to audit the costs of all defence factories across the nation and went on to prepare a model costing system for small factories.

At the peak of the war effort 500 cost investigators were employed under Mr Webb across Australia.

At the end of the war he was involved in the rationalisation of the aircraft, munition, explosives, ordinance and small arms factories in Australia.

From 1948 to 1963 Mr Webb was Director of Finance, Finance Member of the Commonwealth Government’s Contract Board and Chief Cost Investigator in the Commonwealth Department of Supply.

One of his more interesting responsibilities within the Department was to negotiate and draft an agreement with NASA for the establishment of the deep space tracking stations in Australia.

During this period Mr Webb completed his Bachelor of Commerce at Melbourne University and went on to achieve his Masters.

In July 1963 Mr Webb moved to the Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport as assistant secretary and controller of rail standardisation where he controlled the expenditure of more than $700 million on the construction of two new standard gauge rail lines in SA and WA.

In 1970 he was appointed commissioner for transport in Tasmania.

The greatest challenge Mr Webb faced in this role occurred on January 5, 1975 when the bulk ore carrier Lake Illawarra crashed into the Tasman Bridge, bringing down three spans with the loss of 12 lives. For his response to the disaster, Mr Webb was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Although he never attended high school he went on to become one of Australia’s top public servants and left behind many enduring legacies.

He is survived by his two sons, there grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

His wife Jean died just three weeks after his own death on September 11, 2007.

They had been married 72 years.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

George R. Webb, 'Webb, George Tennyson (1912–2007)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

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