In the Australian administrative tradition, Dr H.C. Coombs is a remarkable survivor, a maximalist and an innovator, not least in his· preparedness to write in public. The key figure in the Post-War Reconstruction brains trust which flourished under Curtin, Chifley and Dedman in the 1940s, he became Governor of the Commonwealth and then the Reserve Bank for twenty years and then entered a new creative phase in the post-Menzies and the Whitlam years.
In 1972 he became an adviser to Whitlam, a role he oddly describes as ‘outside the system’. Beside Whitlam, Coombs stood as a symbol of continuity. Friends had long regarded him as the kindler of ‘the light on the hill’, while his enemies had never ceased to see him as a dissembling bureaucratic espionage agent for Labor.