Eight years ago

Philip Denny Day

I was honoured to know Phil Day (1924 – 17 March 2011). He was a colleague on the Land Values Research Group.

Phil was a town planner who, having “seen the cat”, worked unassumingly but tenaciously for the principle of drawing revenue from the use of land instead of taxing labour and capital.

Phil committed his thoughts to two books, “LAND: The elusive quest for social justice, taxation reform and a sustainable planetary environment” (Australian Academic Press, Brisbane, 1995) and “Hijacked Inheritance: the Triumph of Dollar Darwinism” (CopyRight Publishing, Brisbane, 2005).

Phil was a great administrator and town planner.


Obituary: Dr Phil Day

Staff writers, Brisbane Courier Mail April 20, 2011

Dr Phil Day was a progressive advocate for reforms in planning, development control and taxation. He was born in Brisbane in 1924 and died in Brisbane in 2011.

Dr Phil Day’s achievements in town and country planning during any one of his senior official appointments would have been worth commemorating. Summed up, they represent an outstanding record of public service and an enduring contribution to public policy.

Then, for more than 20 years after official retirement, until his death on March 17, he continued advocating progressive reforms in planning, development control and taxation.

Born in 1924 and raised in Yeronga, Philip Denny Day completed primary school in 1937 by winning the coveted Lilley Medal in the state scholarship examination.

After finishing school at Anglican Church Grammar School, he began a law degree but enlisted in World War II as soon as permitted. During his seven years in the Army he learned Japanese and served for three years in the occupation forces in Japan as a commissioned intelligence officer.

Following repatriation, he graduated in 1953. He joined the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra and from 1955-59 also held part-time elected office on the ACT Advisory Council. He moved to Sydney where he qualified in town and country planning and joined the Department of Local Government. Dr Day transferred to the Department of Decentralisation and Development in 1968 and rose to director.

There, he promoted growth centres as the best vehicle for stimulating population growth in regional towns and significantly influenced the Commonwealth’s growth centres policy of the 1970s.

“There’s no particular magic about it,” he observed later in his typically dismissive approach to his own achievements. “Commerce and industry and population are attracted to centres where public decisions are made.”

Dissatisfied with ineffective implementation of regional policy in NSW, Dr Day returned to Queensland as Brisbane City Council’s director of town planning. His commitment to the public interest resulted in clashes with the strong-minded but development-orientated lord mayor, Clem Jones.

He left to join the redoubtable Professor Lewis Keeble in the Department of Regional and Town Planning in the University of Queensland and was head of school from 1977-80. From 1980-82 he was seconded as director of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies before returning to his teaching role, from which he retired in 1988.

In 1989, as a member of the Chalk Committee of Inquiry into Valuation and Rating, Dr Day wrote its final report. To this day it stands as a landmark exposition of city financing.

As editor of Queensland Planner for 16 years from 1987, he influenced professional opinion through plain-spoken editorials and attacks on transgressions of good planning policy.

He is remembered with respect by a generation of planners he educated.

Queensland planners treasured Dr Day as one of the consciences of the profession, an intellectual giant yet unaffectedly modest, and honoured him with Life Fellowship of the Planning Institute.

In retirement he authored a flow of forthright articles for, among others, The Courier-Mail and property consultants King & Co’s magazine King’s Counsel.

His book Hijacked Inheritance, derived from his doctorate earned at age 77, explored the merits of land value taxation, which has gained recent respectability in the Henry tax review as a simple and non-distorting form of raising revenue. In Dr Day’s words, “charging for the use or consumption of the nation’s natural resources would go a long way towards reducing the necessity for income taxes on productive labour and capital.”

Other abiding interests included the “lawyerisation” of planning, the process-heavy planning legislation in Queensland and decentralisation. Dr Day was a visionary who argued that concentration of population in the southeast would entail construction of inevitably unaffordable infrastructure, as Brisbane’s tunnels are turning out to be.

In his latter years he was upset at the creeping dominance of economic rationalism that starved departmental budgets, corroding the foundations of the tenured professional public service crucial to giving governments advice.

Friends, colleagues and students mentored by him can best honour his memory by continuing to uphold public interest planning and progressing the causes he held dear.

Dr Day is survived by children Diana, Michael, Richard, wife Jinn, grandchildren and former wife Nancy.

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