- H. V. Evatt
The Right Honourable
Dr H. V. Evatt
Puisne Justice of the High Court of Australia In office
19 December 1930 – 2 September 1940
Appointed by James Scullin Preceded by Sir Charles Powers Succeeded by Sir Dudley Williams Chief Justice of New South Wales In office
15 February 1960 – 24 October 1962
Preceded by Sir Kenneth Street Succeeded by Sir Leslie Herron 15th Leader of the Opposition
Elections: 1954, 1955, 1958
20 June 1951 – 9 February 1960
Preceded by Ben Chifley Succeeded by Arthur Calwell Leader of the Australian Labor Party In office
20 June 1951 – 9 February 1960
Preceded by Ben Chifley Succeeded by Arthur Calwell Attorney-General of Australia In office
7 October 1941 – 19 December 1949
Preceded by Billy Hughes Succeeded by John Spicer Minister for External Affairs Member of Parliament
7 October 1941 – 19 December 1949
Preceded by Sir Frederick Stewart Succeeded by Percy Spender In office
21 September 1940 – 22 November 1958
Preceded by Albert Lane Succeeded by Leonard Reynolds Member of the Australian Parliament
22 November 1958 – 10 February 1960
Preceded by Rowley James Succeeded by Bert James Personal details Born 30 April 1894
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia
Died 2 November 1965(aged 71)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Alma mater University of Sydney
Herbert Vere Evatt, QC KStJ (30 April 1894 – 2 November 1965), was an Australian jurist, politician and writer. He was President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1948–49 and helped draft the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). He was Leader of the Australian Labor Party (and thus Leader of the Opposition) from 1951 to 1960.
Evatt was formally referred to as Dr H. V. Evatt, but was informally known as "Bert" or "Doc" Evatt.
Early years and education
Evatt was born in Maitland, New South Wales, son of John and Jeanie Evatt, and elder brother of Clive Evatt. The family was working-class of British and Irish origin. He was never called Herbert: his family called him Bert, everyone else called him Doc.
After attending Fort Street High School in Sydney, Evatt won scholarships to the University of Sydney, whilst there he was a resident of St Andrew's College, where he graduated in 1919 with two University Medals, in Philosophy and Law. He was President of the University of Sydney Union from 1916–17.
Due to poor eyesight, Evatt was unable to serve in the First World War, in which two of his brothers were killed. He became a prominent industrial lawyer in Sydney, working mainly for trade union clients.
In 1925 Evatt was elected as an Australian Labor Party member for Balmain in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. Re-elected as an 'Independent Labor' candidate in 1927, Evatt served in the Legislative Assembly until 1930.
High Court Judge
In 1930 the Scullin Labor government appointed Evatt as the youngest-ever justice of the High Court of Australia. Regarded by some as a brilliant and innovative judge, he delivered a number of minority judgements, several of which were decades later adopted by High Court majorities. Evatt could, however, be partial on the bench. Sir Owen Dixon noted in one instance how Evatt was "full of antagonism to the respondent ... Most unjudicial." It is noticeable, upon examination of the Commonwealth Law Reports for the 1930s, that when Evatt was not particularly interested in a case he generally went along with Dixon's judgment.
In 1934 Evatt played an important part in the Egon Kisch exclusion when he ruled that the Lyons Government's ban on Kisch entering Australia had been incorrectly executed and that he was free to enter the country.
In several matters, Robert Menzies, the Attorney-General in the Lyons conservative government, appeared before the court, where he and Evatt had several colourful exchanges on questions of law. This was the beginning of a life-long mutual dislike.
In 1940 Evatt resigned from the High Court to return to politics, and was elected federal MP for the Sydney seat of Barton in the House of Representatives. When Labor came to power under John Curtin in 1941, Evatt became Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs (Foreign Minister).
Evatt joined the diplomatic councils of the allies during World War II, and in 1945 he played a leading role in the founding of the UN. He was President of the U.N. General Assembly in 1948–49, and was prominent in the negotiations which led to the creation of Israel. He helped draft the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was also the first chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission. He became deputy leader of the Labor Party after the 1946 election, supporting Ben Chifley.
While in London Evatt acted as the spokesperson for the Australian Board of Control and made personal representations to the Marylebone Cricket Club who were reluctant to send a cricket team to tour Australia so soon after the war. He put forward convincing arguments as to the need to re-establish sporting relations and the financial benefits of the tour and the MCC agreed to the 1946–47 Ashes series. Don Bradman later said that "The quick resumption of Anglo-Australian Tests had justified itself in every way, psychologically, technically, financially".
Leader of the Opposition
In the 1949 election, Labor was defeated by Menzies' new Liberal Party. When Ben Chifley (still Labor leader) died suddenly in 1951, Evatt was elected unopposed as his successor. At first his leadership went rather well, and he campaigned successfully against Menzies' attempt to amend the Constitution to ban the Communist Party. Many convinced anti-Communists in the Labor Party believed this was both bad politics and bad policy, because of the active Communist infiltration of numerous trade unions, and because of the threat to national security posed by communism. Still, none of these Labor men except the firebrand Stan Keon overtly censured Evatt's stance.
Evatt's failure to win the 1954 election led him to blame the Catholic-dominated Industrial Groups in the party for sabotaging his campaign. He was also convinced (wrongly, as primary sources afterwards revealed) that Menzies had conspired with the security services to bring about the defection of a Soviet diplomat (see Petrov Affair), and, moreover, to do so with the specific purpose of discrediting Evatt. Documents shown to the commission members were alleged to provide evidence of an extensive Soviet spy ring in Australia, and named (among many others), two of Evatt's staff members. Evatt appeared before the Royal Commission as attorney for his staff members. His cross-examination of a key ASIO operative transformed the commission's hearings and greatly perturbed the government. Almost immediately, the Royal Commission simply withdrew Evatt's leave to appear. Evatt alleged that this denial was this result of judicial bias towards the Menzies government.
After the election, Evatt launched a public attack on "The Groupers", which precipitated a disastrous split in the party, with most of the "Groupers" leaving or being expelled. The disaffected formed the Democratic Labor Party, which directed its preferences against Labor at subsequent elections. This, together with an obsessive hatred of Menzies which led him into many tactical errors, caused Labor to be heavily defeated at both the 1955 and 1958 federal elections. During the 1958 campaign, at which he transferred to the seat of Hunter, Evatt made a dramatic offer to resign as leader if the DLP would return to the party, but the offer was rejected.
NSW Supreme Court Judge
In 1960 the Labor government in New South Wales appointed Evatt Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, an appointment that was widely seen as a means of giving him a dignified exit from politics. His career as Chief Justice was undistinguished and erratic, lacking the legal insight he had exhibited as an academic and High Court justice. Tom Hughes, a leading Sydney barrister and former Liberal Attorney-General, has claimed that all of the judgments Evatt gave in this period were co-authored with a judicial colleague.
Breakdown and retirement
Recent biographies of Evatt agree that his behaviour became more eccentric from the late 1950s. Pat Fiske and David McKnight, in their 1995 television documentary Doc, attributed what they described as Evatt's "deteriorating mental functioning" to arteriosclerosis. In 1962 Evatt suffered a mental breakdown, and was persuaded to retire from the bench. He died in Canberra in November 1965.
During his life he had a varied career as a writer, covering such topics as law and labour history. His book on the politics of the Rum Rebellion is still considered highly relevant, although others such as Michael Duffy disagree with Evatt's view. He contributed an article on "Cricket and the British Commonwealth" to the 1949 edition of the Wisden Cricketer's Almanack.
His publications include:
- H. V. Evatt, Australian Labour Leader: The Story Of W.A. Holman and the Labour Movement, 1954
- H. V. Evatt, The King and His Dominion Governors, 1936
- H. V. Evatt, Injustice within the Law. A study of the case of the Dorsetshire Labourers, 1937
- H. V. Evatt, The Royal Prerogative, 1930 (this was his LLD thesis)
- H. V. Evatt, Rum Rebellion: A Study of the Overthrow of Governor Bligh by John Macarthur and the New South Wales Corps, 1943
- In 1924 Evatt was awarded the degree LLD, for his dissertation on prerogative powers of Governors in the British legal system.
- The Evatt Foundation, a research institute for the labour movement, is named in his honour.
- The suburb of Evatt, which lies in the Belconnen district of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, is also named in his honour.
- One of the high schools (Maitland Boy's High School) in his home town of Maitland, was briefly renamed Evatt High School in his honour, before being renamed Maitland High School when it became unisex some years later.
- In November 1965, the NSW State Government opened Evatt Park in Lugarno. The park is still used frequently for recreation.
- United Nations Youth Australia runs an annual national schools debating trophy competition named the Evatt Trophy Competition in honor of Evatt.
- ^ Owen Dixon, Diary, 29 April 1937, Owen Dixon, Personal Papers. The case was Australian Woolen Mills Ltd v F.S. Walton & Co. Ltd (1937) 58 CLR 641.
- ^ Ayres, Philip (2003). Owen Dixon. The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne University. ISBN 0-522-85045-6. p 62.
- ^ Carolyn Rasmussen (2006). "KISCH, EGON ERWIN (1885–1948)". Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A150043b.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
- ^ pp3-4, Clif Cary, Cricket Controversy, Test matches in Australia 1946-47, T. Werner Laurie Ltd, 1948
- ^ p292, Ray Robinson and Mike Coward, England vs Australia 1932-1985, in E.W. Swanton (ed), Barclay's World of Cricket, Willow, 1986
- ^ p68, E.W. Swanton, Swanton in Australia with MCC 1946–1975, Fontana/Collins, 1975
- ^ Robert Menzies — National Archives of Australia
- ^ Owen, Sir William Francis Langer (1899–1972) — Australian Dictionary of Biography
- ^ T Hughes QC, Article, 'Bar News (Winter 2006), p 59
- ^ Gerard Henderson, Labor in denial about Evatt, its flawed hero The Age, 12 April 2005
- ^ Michael Duffy, Proof of history's rum deal Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 2006
- ^ "Evatt Foundation". Evatt.labor.net.au. http://evatt.labor.net.au/. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- No Ribbons or Medals: the story of "Hereward" an Australian counter espionage officer, Valdemar Robert Wake, Jacobyte Books 2004
- Buckley, Ken; Dale, Barbara and Reynolds, Wayne (1994), Doc Evatt, Cheshire, Melbourne ISBN 058287498 X
- Crockett, Peter (1993), Evatt: A Life, Oxford University Press, Melbourne ISBN 0195535588
- Dalziel, Allan (1967), Evatt. The Enigma, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne
- Makin, Norman (1961), Federal Labour Leaders, Union Printing, Sydney, New South Wales, Pages 140–145.
- Renouf, Alan (1983), Let Justice Be Done. The Foreign Policy of Dr H.V. Evatt, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia (Queensland) ISBN 0702218936
- Tennant, Kylie (1970), Evatt. Politics and Justice, Angus and Robertson, Sydney ISBN 0207125333
Political offices Preceded by
Leader of the Opposition
Sir Frederick Stewart
Minister for External Affairs
Attorney-General of Australia
Parliament of Australia Preceded by
Member for Barton
Member for Hunter
Parliament of New South Wales Preceded by
Member for Balmain
Served alongside: Keegan, Lane, Quirk, Stuart-Robertson
H. V. Evatt
H. V. Evatt
Member for Balmain
Diplomatic posts Preceded by
President of the United Nations General Assembly
Carlos P. Romulo
Legal offices Preceded by
Sir Kenneth Street
Chief Justice of New South Wales
Sir Leslie Herron
Party political offices Preceded by
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
President of the United Nations General Assembly 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s Federal Parliamentary Leaders of the Australian Labor Party Justices of the High Court of Australia Chief Justices of Australia Puisne JusticesBarton · O'Connor · Higgins · Powers · Piddington · Rich · Starke · Evatt · McTiernan · Williams · Webb · Fullagar · Kitto · Taylor · Menzies · Windeyer · Owen · Walsh · Stephen · Jacobs · Murphy · Aickin · Wilson · Deane · Dawson · Toohey · Gaudron · McHugh · Gummow · Kirby · Hayne · Callinan · Heydon · Crennan · Kiefel · Bellcurrent Justices are in italics
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