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Percy Whitton (1861–1923)

Deep regret was experienced yesterday in the Commonwealth offices at the sudden death of the comptroller-general of customs (Mr. Percy Whitton), which occurred during the night at his residence, Munro street, Armadale, from acute heart disease. Before leaving his office on Tuesday he called upon Senator Wilson, and was then apparently in the best of health. On the previous day Mr. Whitton received a deputation of Sydney film importers on matters connected with recent regulations, and when the deputation left he expressed the intention of attending a round-table conference to be held soon in Sydney. The members of the deputation were greatly impressed by the fairness of Mr. Whitton, and this was the impression left with all deputations which have interviewed him. No public servant was more beloved by those under him, nor more respected than he was.

Mr. Whitton was the son of Mr. H. W. Whitton, of Hobart, and was born in that city in 1861. He joined the Victorian public service at an early age, and in 1902 was transferred to the newly constituted Commonwealth audit office, under the first auditor-general (Mr. Israel), who still holds that position. Mr. Whitton's qualifications for the audit office were very high. Not only was he a Fellow of the British Society of Accountants and Auditors, but he was also a Fellow of the Australian Society of Accountants. When in 1910 the position of collector of customs for Victoria became vacant, Mr. Whitton was appointed to it, and he continued to act as collector until September, 1917, when, under the provisions of the War Precautions Act, he became chief prices commissioner. In July, 1920, he returned to the Customs department as deputy comptroller, and at the end of October, 1922, on the term of office of the former comptroller (Mr. Mills) ending, he was appointed comptroller-general. In addition to his duties as comptroller-general, Mr. Whitton was a member of the Board of Trade, chairman of the Sugar Board, treasurer of the Empire Exhibition committee, public trustee, and was also a member of the Income Tax Appeal Board. In recognition of his valuable services, he was awarded the Imperial Service Order.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), referring yesterday to the loss which the public service of Australia had sustained, said that Mr. Whitton had been one of those public officials in high positions of whom the Commonwealth had every reason to be proud. The chairman of the Tariff Board (Mr. Oakley), who also holds the position of deputy comptroller-general, in alluding to Mr. Whitton's death, said that he was loved by the whole of the staff. Testimony to the valuable services rendered by Mr. Whitton was also given by another member of the Tariff Board (Mr. Herbert Brookes), who said that it was only by having intimate relations with the Customs department that he had learned to appreciate the services of men of the type of the late comptroller. Messages of condolence were received by the widow from Mr. Massy Greene, a former Minister for Customs, and others who had been intimately associated with Mr. Whitton. Mr. Whitton leaves a widow (whose father was Dr. Harrington, of Warrnambool) and one son, Mr. lvo Whitton, the amateur golf champion of Australia. The late Mr. Whitton was secretary of the Metropolitan Golf Club. The funeral, which is to take place this morning from Munro street, Armadale, is to be private.

Mr. A. S. Rodgers, a former Minister for Customs, expressed regret last night at the announcement of the death of Mr. Whitton, whose work in the public service he warmly praised. Mr. Rodgers said that as Minister for Customs he had been closely associated with Mr. Whitton, and he had been greatly impressed by the zeal and ability which had marked all his efforts. Reference in the Senate.

When the Senate met yesterday morning the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) announced the death of Mr. Whitton, whom, he said, was an old and respected servant of the Commonwealth. The news came as a great shock to him, as it would to all senators with whom Mr. Whitton came in contact. He was sure he was voicing the opinion of all in expressing deep regret at his death and sympathy with his widow and relatives.

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'Whitton, Percy (1861–1923)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

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