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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Milne, Kenneth Lancelot (Lance) (1915–1995)

by Clement Macintyre

This article was published online in 2019

Kenneth Lancelot Milne (1915–1995), accountant, public servant, and politician, was born on 14 August 1915 at Kensington Gardens, Adelaide, only child of Frank Kenneth Milne, architect, and his wife Hazel Muir, née Fotheringham, both South Australian born. Several members of his family were prominent parliamentarians. A great-grandfather, Sir William Milne; a great-uncle, Sir Lancelot Stirling; and an uncle, (Sir) Walter Duncan, between them held the presidency of South Australia’s Legislative Council for over fifty-six years. Lance was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter and the University of Adelaide (1934–35) but left without taking a degree. He was then articled to a practising accountant.

In 1937 Milne published Ostrich Heads, a small book that warned of the challenges of the coming war and encouraged young Australians to become more engaged in public life. By the late 1930s he was a member of the Young Liberal League. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and began training as a pilot on 9 November 1940. On 3 May the next year he married Mary Hughes at St Peter’s College Chapel. Commissioned and sent to Britain in July, he flew with three Royal Air Force squadrons: No. 79 (October 1941-January 1942), No. 452 (January-May 1942), and No. 285 (June 1942-February 1943). As a result of eyesight problems, he performed administrative duties thereafter, rising to flight lieutenant (July 1944). He returned to Australia in March 1945 and was demobilised in October.

Milne practised accountancy in the firm Andrews & Jolly, then successively as a principal of Andrews & Milne; Milne & Burgess; and Milne, Stevens (Searcy) & Co. He became a fellow (1950) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and served on the State (1951–64: chairman, 1958–60) and Federal (1956–60) councils. In 1959 he published a textbook, The Accountant in Public Practice, that was well received and appeared on university reading lists. He supported various organisations including the Walkerville Church of England Boys’ Home, the Oral Kindergarten, Moral Re-Armament, and the Chiropractic Health Society of South Australia. His interest in community affairs led to his being elected to Walkerville Town Council (1960–65), where he served as mayor (1961–64) and helped to introduce a free public library. He was also president of the Municipal Association of South Australia (1964–65).

Despite Milne’s establishment background and membership of the conservative Adelaide Club, he joined the Australian Labor Party, convinced that ‘things were loaded against the average person’ (Rodda 1995, 8). He earned the displeasure of his father who threatened to disinherit him for assisting the ALP’s 1966 Federal election campaign. In 1966 the State Labor government appointed him South Australia’s agent-general in London. He was granted freedom of the City of London in 1970 and appointed CBE in 1971. On his return to Adelaide that year, he served as the inaugural chairman of the State Government Insurance Commission. His political beliefs shifting, he did not rejoin the ALP and became active in the early public meetings of the Australian Democrats.

In 1979 Milne was elected to the State Legislative Council for a six-year term. For the first three years he was the sole Australian Democrat and held the balance of power. Garnering a reputation as genial and fair, he preferred to claim that he held the ‘balance of reason’ (SA LC 1996, 768, 770). He played a major role in establishing the Select Committee on Uranium Resources (1979–81), although he was unable to prevent the passage of the Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratification) Act (1982) governing operations at the Olympic Dam mine. His views were socially conservative and his legislative interest was mainly directed to domestic and consumer issues, while his contribution to debates was concerned more with generalities than fine detail. He introduced a bill to ban cigarette advertising, supported environmental protection measures, opposed some State taxation measures, and spoke out against increases to parliamentarians’ salaries. In 1984 he announced that he would not stand for re-election. After the Democrats did not preselect his preferred candidate, he resigned from the party just days before the 1985 election.

Milne had served on several committees, including as president of the South Australian branches of the Royal Overseas League (from 1974) and the Royal Life Saving Society (from 1977). Following Mary’s death in 1980, he married Joan Constance Lee, a secretary, at Scots Church, Adelaide, on 23 January 1982. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable collector of shells, he deposited his extensive collection (principally chitons) in the South Australian Museum. Survived by his wife, and the daughter and two sons from his first marriage, he died on 27 December 1995 in Stirling District Hospital and was buried at Enfield Memorial Park Cemetery.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Kennedy, Alex. ‘Man of Many Achievements.’ Advertiser (Adelaide), 5 October 1979, 5
  • Macklin, Bruce. ‘Philanthropist with a Rogue Spirit.’ Australian, 12 February 1996, 15
  • Martin, Robert. Responsible Government in South Australia. Vol. 2, Playford to Rann 19572007. Kent Town, SA: Wakefield Press, 2009
  • National Archives of Australia. A9300, MILNE K L
  • Rodda, Rachel. ‘A Reformer Who Believed in Tradition.’ Advertiser (Adelaide), 29 December 1995, 8
  • South Australia. Legislative Council. Parliamentary Debates. 6 February 1996, 767–770
  • Stock, Jenny Tilby. ‘The South Australian Democrats.’ In Keeping the Bastards Honest: The Australian Democrats’ First Twenty Years, edited by John Warhurst, 195–212. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1997
  • Walkerville Public Library. Local Government File LHC-WAL-LG-00001-7, Milne

Additional Resources

Citation details

Clement Macintyre, 'Milne, Kenneth Lancelot (Lance) (1915–1995)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2019, accessed online 20 September 2020.

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