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Charles John Cerutty CMG

1870 – 1941

Charles John Cerutty CMG (1870-1941), public servant, began his career at the age of eighteen as a clerk in the Victorian Department of the Treasurer. In 1897 he became secretary to the Public Service Reclassification Board; he held the post until June 1901 when he joined the Commonwealth Treasury as a sub-accountant. He assisted in the development of the Federal financial system by helping to establish the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, to raise loans, to inaugurate invalid and old-age pensions, and to introduce maternity allowances. Promoted to accountant in 1910 and assistant-secretary 1916, he was appointed auditor-general for the Commonwealth in mid-1926. A harsh critic of government waste, he was in charge of scrutinizing the nation's finances during the worst years of the Depression. He recommended that public expenditure be reduced, as well as advocating cuts in private spending on luxury items and leisure pursuits; he urged that the unemployed be made to work for sustenance payments, and argued for a contributory system of old-age pensions which would compel workers to provide for their retirement. In 1933-34 Cerutty angered politicians by blocking the planned transfer of his office to Canberra.

Updated 2018