For more than thirty years, Tom Hughes, a scion of a notable Sydney family of high achievers, was one of Australia’s top barristers, renowned, respected and sometimes feared for his dominating presence in the courtroom. Equally at home in all jurisdictions, his theatrical style, command of language and forensic skills filled public galleries, exposed witnesses, persuaded juries and ensured that judges paid attention. An icon of the Sydney and Australian Bar, he appeared in a raft of celebrated cases, became the subject of many media profiles and was, from the 1970s to the 1990s, the country’s most expensive advocate.
Hughes has also been a wartime pilot, a politician, an activist federal Attorney-General, a grazier, and a racehorse owner. He survived a broken marriage, a spiteful sacking from ministerial office and a prolonged though not permanent loss of an inherited Catholic faith. He endured years of frustration before finding the right partner to replicate the perfect marriage of his beloved parents. Even in dark times, however, a thorough professional and a prodigious worker, Hughes remained focused on his first love, the law, always upholding its traditions and processes.
In addition to published material, the book draws on a huge trove of personal records, including fee books, intimate diaries, autobiographical jottings and private correspondence, supplemented by interviews with Hughes, his family, friends and colleagues. Using these sources, the book provides insights into a many-sided character - telling the story of how Hughes and his immediate forebears embraced more of their English than their Irish heritage while becoming distinctively Australian. It also offers a personal perspective on several decades of Australian political, social and legal history.
Ian Hancock is an Editorial Fellow of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, part of the National Centre of Biography located in the College of Arts & Social Sciences at the Australian National University. A graduate of Melbourne and Oxford Universities, he has researched, taught and published in several areas, including African and Australian history and politics, and British imperial history.
For ten years he was the historical consultant to the National Archives for the annual release of Cabinet records and has been a member of the National Archives Advisory Council and of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Documents on Australian Foreign Policy.
His two most recent books are The Liberals: A History of the NSW Division of the Liberal Party of Australia 1945-2000 (2007) and Nick Greiner: A Political Biography (2013). He has also published chapters on Sir Robert Askin in The Premiers of NSW (Vol 2), 1901-2005 (2006), Sir John Carrick in The Worldly Art of Politics (2006) and Sir Arthur Roden Cutler and Sir David Martin in The Governors of New South Wales 1788-2010 (2009), all commissioned by the Committee for the Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government in New South Wales, 1856-2006. In 2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Archives published his monograph Australian Policy Towards Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in 1979-1980 in the RG Neale Lecture Series.