Tom Hughes (Australian politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tom Hughes

Tom Hughes 1969 Colour.jpg
Attorney-General of Australia
In office
12 November 1969 – 22 March 1971
Prime MinisterJohn Gorton
William McMahon
Preceded byNigel Bowen
Succeeded byNigel Bowen
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Parkes
In office
30 November 1963 – 25 October 1969
Preceded byLes Haylen
Succeeded byDivision abolished
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Berowra
In office
25 October 1969 – 2 November 1972
Preceded byDivision created
Succeeded byHarry Edwards
Personal details
Thomas Eyre Forrest Hughes

(1923-11-26) 26 November 1923 (age 97)
Rose Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLiberal
Joanna Fitzgerald
(m. 1951; div. 1972)

Christine Abel Smith
(m. 1981)
Children3, including Lucy
ParentsGeoffrey Forrest Hughes
Margaret Vidal
RelativesThomas Hughes (grandfather)
Robert Hughes (brother)
See Hughes family
Alma materUniversity of Sydney

Thomas Eyre Forrest Hughes AO QC (born 26 November 1923) is a former Australian barrister and politician. A member of the Liberal Party, he served as Attorney-General in the Gorton Government from 1969 to 1971 and was a member of the House of Representatives from 1963 to 1972, representing the New South Wales seats of Parkes and Berowra. He is a former president of the New South Wales Bar Association and was one of Sydney's most prominent barristers for a number of decades. Along with Andrew Peacock, Hughes is the last surviving member of the Second Gorton Ministry (1969-1971) from the Liberal Party.

Early life and education[edit]

Hughes was born on 26 November 1923 in Rose Bay, New South Wales.[1][2] He was the son of lawyer and aviator Geoffrey Forrest Hughes. His brother was the writer and critic Robert Hughes. His grandfather and great-uncle were members of the New South Wales Legislative Council. He was educated at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview, and the University of Sydney,[3] where he graduated in law. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in May 1942 and was discharged in February 1946.[2] In 2005 he was awarded the French Légion d'honneur for his courage while flying planes in the Invasion of Normandy.[4] He was called to the New South Wales bar in 1949, becoming a QC in 1962.

Hughes appeared in a number of high-profile defamation cases. In 1960 he successfully defended Australian Consolidated Press, its editor-in-chief David McNicoll, and political journalist Alan Reid against a suit brought by union secretary Charlie Oliver.[5] In 1964 he represented author Hal Porter against The Mercury for publishing a bad review of his autobiography.[6]


Hughes in 1964.

Hughes defeated the long-serving Labor member Les Haylen to unexpectedly win the seat of Parkes at the 1963 elections. He switched to the Division of Berowra at the 1969 federal election and was subsequently appointed Attorney-General in the Second Gorton Ministry.

Hughes continued to practise as a barrister during his time as a backbencher. In 1967 he represented Clive Evatt Jr., nephew of former ALP leader H. V. Evatt, against the New South Wales Bar Association in a professional misconduct case.[7] In August 1969, he represented Alexander McLeod-Lindsay at a special inquiry into his conviction for attempting to murder his wife, arguing there had been a mistrial.[8]


In May 1970, Hughes publicly spoke in favour of decriminalising homosexuality, in the context of the drafting of new criminal codes for the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.[9] In the same year he supported Rae Else-Mitchell's call for federal and state courts to be merged into a single judicial system.[10]

Hughes came into conflict with university students on a number of occasions. He was "jostled" by protestors after a speech at the University of Sydney in July 1970 and subsequently abandoned his car, inadvertently causing over 300 police to be called out when the event's organisers could not locate him.[11] At a speech to the Australian National University's Liberal Club in September 1970, he was interrupted by anti-war demonstrators and "grabbed a Vietcong flag from a student and tore it from its supporting pole".[12] The previous month his home in Bellevue Hill had been invaded by anti-war demonstrators, resulting in eight students and two press photographers being arrested. He reportedly "came out carrying a cricket bat and scuffled with some of the demonstrators" before performing a citizen's arrest on one student.[13][14] Hughes was charged with unlawful assault in relation to his use of the bat, but was found not guilty by reason of provocation.[15]

Hughes supported John Gorton in the 1971 leadership spill and was not retained as attorney-general when William McMahon replaced Gorton as party leader and prime minister. He later spoke of a "feeling of having been wronged" over the demotion.[16] In August 1971 he opposed McMahon's attempts to sack Gorton from the new ministry, describing them as "bordering on the insane".[17] Hughes quickly returned to his legal practice, appearing before the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory a few months after his sacking.[18] He was opposed for Liberal preselection in October 1971 by four other candidates, winning a majority on the first ballot. The Canberra Times reported that his bid for renomination was opposed by the conservative faction led by Jim Cameron, and that since leaving the ministry his comments "had established him as one of the principal spokesmen for the 'radical wing' of the Liberal Party".[19]

In November 1971, Hughes announced his decision to retire from federal politics at the next election, citing a desire to return to practising law full-time.[20]

Later career[edit]

In September 1972 Hughes was elected to the council of the Australian National University, to a term expiring in 1975.[21]

After leaving politics he became one of the leading figures at the Sydney bar, and was president of the New South Wales Bar Association between 1973 and 1975. He was formerly engaged in full-time practice as a member of Sydney's Blackstone Chambers, and as of 2016 was the most senior member of the NSW Bar.[22]

In 1974 Hughes defended New South Wales premier Robert Askin against a defamation suit brought by Jack Mundey, the president of the Communist Party of Australia.[23] In 1976 he simultaneously appeared for prime minister Gough Whitlam in the New South Wales Court of Petty Sessions while representing Vic Garland against Whitlam in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. The cases were unrelated and as such there was no perceived conflict of interest.[24] Hughes assisted media mogul Kerry Packer at the Costigan Royal Commission in 1984.[25] In the same year he represented bookmaker Bill Waterhouse at the New South Wales Racing Appeals Tribunal following the Fine Cotton scandal.[26]

Hughes represented High Court judge Lionel Murphy in several different venues relating to his alleged attempts to pervert the course of justice. In 1984 he appeared for Murphy before a Senate committee,[27] and the following year he represented Murphy in his appeal against a conviction for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.[28]

In 2002, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Hughes was still working full-time at the age of 78, as one of only two active barristers admitted to the New South Wales bar in the 1940s.[3]

Hughes delivered the eulogy at the state memorial service for John Gorton in May 2002. His speech was highly critical of Malcolm Fraser's actions in 1971, which he termed a "political assassination". Fraser was in attendance at the service.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

In 1951 Hughes married Joanna Fitzgerald, a niece of the poet R. D. Fitzgerald. The couple had three children together – Lucy, Tom Jr. and Michael.[3] Lucy served as Lord Mayor of Sydney (2000–2002) and married Malcolm Turnbull, who became prime minister of Australia (2015–2018). Tom followed his father into the legal profession, often serving as his junior.[3] Michael became a stockbroker and business executive, also holding senior office in the Liberal Party's organisational wing.[31]

Hughes and his first wife divorced in 1972.[32] He subsequently proposed marriage to actress Kate Fitzpatrick, who turned him down. He remarried in 1981 to Chrissie Abel Smith (née Taylor), at a ceremony officiated by Ted Noffs.[3]

Hughes was raised Catholic. He left the church for a period due to disagreements with its social policies, but rejoined in the early 1990s.[3]

In the early 1970s Hughes bought an 800-hectare (2,000-acre) farming property at Gurrundah, New South Wales. He initially raised cattle but in 1976 established a Poll Dorset sheep stud with six rams and 320 ewes. He won prizes at local agricultural shows and exhibited at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.[33]


OrderAustraliaRibbon.png Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) 1988 for services to the legal profession[34]
1939-45 Star.png 1939–45 Star
France and Germany Star BAR.svg France and Germany Star
War Medal 39-45 BAR.svg War Medal 1939–1945
Australia Service Medal 1939-1945 BAR.svg Australia Service Medal 1939–45
Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Centenary Medal 2001 [35]
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France) 2005[4]


  1. ^ "Cabinet's new faces". The Canberra Times. 12 November 1969.
  2. ^ a b "HUGHES, THOMAS EYRE FORREST: World War Two Service". Department of Veterans' Affairs. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The old silk road". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 June 2002. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b ABC (2008). PM – Australian vets honoured with French Legion of Honour. Retrieved 31 May 2008.
  5. ^ "Defamation suit lost by unionist". The Canberra Times. 29 November 1960.
  6. ^ "Author claims heavy damages". The Canberra Times. 4 December 1964.
  7. ^ "Evatt restraint move succeeds". The Canberra Times. 30 March 1967.
  8. ^ "McLeod-Lindsay trial failed, QC says". The Canberra Times. 30 August 1969.
  9. ^ Sekuless, Peter (28 May 1970). "Deviants viewed more liberally, says Hughes". The Canberra Times.
  10. ^ "Plan for courts backed by Hughes". The Canberra Times. 12 September 1970.
  11. ^ "Mr Hughes jostled". The Canberra Times. 31 July 1970.
  12. ^ "Minister blows his cool". The Canberra Times. 1 October 1970.
  13. ^ "Minister scuffles with protestors". The Canberra Times. 17 August 1970.
  14. ^ "Attitude not passive, says Mr Hughes". The Canberra Times. 20 August 1970.
  15. ^ "Hughes not guilty of assault". The Canberra Times. 29 January 1971.
  16. ^ "Hughes denies plot by former ministers". The Canberra Times. 30 November 1971.
  17. ^ Solomon, David (12 August 1971). "Gorton move likely by Sunday". The Canberra Times.
  18. ^ "Damages claim settled out of court". The Canberra Times. 11 May 1971.
  19. ^ Solomon, David (9 October 1971). "Hughes wins right to stand". The Canberra Times.
  20. ^ Solomon, David (22 November 1971). "Mr Hughes to leave federal politics". The Canberra Times.
  21. ^ "Mr Hughes on A.N.U. Council". The Canberra Times. 19 September 1972.
  22. ^ "Blackstone Chambers Barristers - The Hon. Thomas Hughes AO QC". Findmypast. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  23. ^ "QC accused of 'political speech' in case". The Canberra Times. 15 August 1974.
  24. ^ Waterford, Jack (24 February 1976). "Even-handedness at the Bar". The Canberra Times.
  25. ^ "Costigan under great pressure in Packer probe". The Canberra Times. 28 March 1984.
  26. ^ "Waterhouse had nothing to gain: QC". The Canberra Times. 13 December 1984.
  27. ^ "Full text of Murphy statement". The Canberra Times. 13 October 1984.
  28. ^ "New legal counsel for Murphy". The Canberra Times. 14 July 1985.
  29. ^ "Fraser under attack at Gorton memorial service". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 May 2002. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  30. ^ "Hughes's wintry blast for the undertaker PM". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 June 2002. Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  31. ^ Clennell, Andrew (4 July 2018). "Turnbull's brother-in-law Michael Hughes hunts NSW Liberal donors". The Weekend Australian. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  32. ^ Blackshield, Tony (1 July 2016). "Contradictory counsel". Inside Story. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  33. ^ "QC takes honours with his sheep". The Canberra Times. 18 February 1980.
  34. ^ It's An Honour (2008). HUGHES, Thomas Eyre Forrest. Retrieved 31 May 2008.
  35. ^ It's An Honour (2008). HUGHES, Thomas Eyre. Retrieved 31 May 2008.
Political offices
Preceded by
Nigel Bowen
Succeeded by
Nigel Bowen
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Les Haylen
Member for Parkes
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New division
Member for Berowra
Succeeded by
Harry Edwards