Page 2: Professional and political education
Muldoon, Robert David
Accountant, politician, prime minister
This biography, written by Barry Gustafson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2010.
In November 1940, shortly after his 19th birthday, Robert Muldoon enlisted in the army. In 1942, after reverting from sergeant to private at his own request, he was posted to New Caledonia, where he was again promoted, to corporal. In 1944 he sailed for Egypt and Italy, where he joined D Company of the Divisional Cavalry Battalion and took part in fighting at the Senio and Gaiana River crossings, and in the capture of Trieste.
Muldoon was admitted to the New Zealand Society of Accountants as an associate registered accountant in November 1942 and completed his accountancy exams in Italy in May 1944. When the war ended he took up an armed services educational bursary to study modern management accounting in England, arriving just before Christmas 1945. He worked for Robson, Morrow and Company in London, auditing companies throughout Britain. After 12 months he passed the final exams in cost accounting and became the first overseas student to be awarded the Leverhulme Prize for the highest marks.
After returning to New Zealand in 1947, Muldoon joined an Auckland accountancy firm, which became Kendon, Mills, Muldoon and Browne when his cousin Graham Browne became a partner.
In 1956 Muldoon became a Fellow of the New Zealand Society of Accountants and was also elected president of the New Zealand Institute of Cost Accountants. In this position he was involved in the integration of the Institute into the Society. That same year he organised the first joint cost and management seminar. In 1957 this role earned him the society’s Maxwell Award, given for furthering the community’s knowledge of cost and management accounting.
Junior National Party
In 1947 Muldoon joined a new junior branch of the National Party in Mt Albert and in March 1948 became its chairman. In October that year he was elected chairman of the Auckland Divisional Junior Nationals. He was re-elected in 1949, the year that the National Party under Sidney Holland became the government for the first time. The Junior Nationals debated among themselves and against other teams in the Auckland Debating Society, and Muldoon was a very enthusiastic participant.
The Junior Nationals also enjoyed dances and picnics, and many members became romantically involved with one another. In early 1948 Muldoon started going out with Thea Dale Flyger, a Junior National from the North Shore who had studied accounting and worked in the costing office of Holeproof Ltd. They were married at Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, on 17 March 1951. Thea’s father, a builder, helped them build a house in Lake Road, Devonport, and later a bach (holiday house) at Hatfields Beach. They were to have two daughters and a son.
Throughout the 1950s Muldoon was an avid gardener, joining the Takapuna Horticultural Society in 1951. He became president of both the Auckland Lily Society and the Auckland Horticultural Council and was made a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Horticulture in recognition of his expertise and contributions.