• Publication Date: June 3, 2016
  • EAN: 9781760020583
  • 432 pages; 6" x 8⅝"
Filed Under: Lawyers & Judges

Tom Hughes QC

A Cab on the Rank


Product Description

Jiawei Shen (b.1948, China, from 1989, Australia)Tom Hughes QC2004Oil on canvas, 167 x 167 cmCollection of New South Wales Bar AssociationPurchased 2004© Jiawei Shen


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 speaking on Tom Hughes QC – Many Sides to A Character, The Sydney Institute_13 July 2016 Listen to podcast…

In the media…

Tom Hughes on FIVEaa Adelaide, Afternoons with Jeremy Cordeaux _24 June 2016 Listen to interview…

Hughes who’s who, Richard Ackland, The Saturday Paper, 18-24 June 2016 Read article…

Tom Hughes on 891 ABC Adelaide with Ian Henschke, Barrister Tom Hughes_16 June 2016 Listen to interview…

Tom Hughes on ABC Radio National, Breakfast with Fran Kelly, The remarkable life of Tom Hughes QC_8 June 2016 Listen to interview…

Tom Hughes on ABC Radio Sydney 702, Mornings with Wendy Harmer_8 June 2016

Tom Hughes on ABC Radio Canberra 666, Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs_8 June 2016

Justinian, On the Couch interviews Ian Hancock, 4 June 2016 Read interview…

Federal election 2016: Hughes sorry for Abbott ‘lunatic’ jibe, Rosie Lewis, The Australian – National Affairs, 4 June 2016 Read article…

Making ‘lunatic’ Abbott Lib leader a folly, Hughes wrote to Turnbull, Troy Bramston, The Australian, 3 June 2016 Read article…

Tom Hughes urged defeated Malcolm Turnbull to stay in politics, Andrew Clark, Australian Financial Review, 3 June 2016 Read article…

Three ministers and a funeral, Australian Financial Review, 3 June 2016 Read extract…

Tom Hughes sounded warning on switch from son-in-law Malcolm Turnbull to ‘lunatic’ Tony Abbott in 2009, Fergus Hunter, SMH, 3 June 2016 Read article…

UPDATED: Tom Hughes sounded warning on switch from son-in-law Malcolm Turnbull to ‘lunatic’ Tony Abbott in 2009, Fergus Hunter, SMH, 3 June 2016 Read article…

Malcolm Turnbull’s father-in-law sent him a letter warning Tony Abbott was a ‘lunatic’ and if he became Liberal leader he would ‘be like a bull in a china shop’, AAP and John Carney for Daily Mail Australia, 3 June 2016 Read article…

PM’s dad-in-law apologised to Abbott, picked up by SBS, 3 June 2016 Read article…

PM’s dad-in-law apologised to Abbott, picked up by AAP, 3 June 2016 Read article…

Tom Hughes, dropping Tony a line, Katharine Murphy, The Guardian, 3 June 2016 Read article…

PM hoses down another Abbott-related problem, Quentin Dempster, The New Daily, 3 June 2016 Read article…

Election 2016: Turnbull dad-in-law’s sorry-not-sorry note to Abbott, Fleur Anderson, Australian Financial Review, 3 June 2016 Read article…

From the Launch Speech by The Hon Murray Gleeson AC, QC (29 June 2016)

“The New South Wales Bar for several years has had, on the wall of its Common Room, a fine portrait of TEF Hughes QC, one of its former Presidents. Now there is another fine portrait of the same subject, this time in book form, available to the Bar and to the public. The author, Ian Hancock, is to be congratulated. This book contains a skilfully written account of Tom’s life and, as well, a measured and just assessment of his contribution to the law and to politics. The Federation Press made an excellent decision that Tom’s story should be available to the profession and the community, and followed through with a handsome publication. … Tom Hughes was one of the best and most successful advocates produced by the New South Wales Bar. The book conveys the enormous range of his experience and the extent of his achievements. Ian Hancock, no doubt assisted by Tom, has made an excellent selection of cases to bring this out, and his commentary on these cases is balanced and well-informed. … He is a great barrister, and a great Australian.” Read Launch Speech…

Media from the Launch

Tom Hughes launches biography – bruised ribs and all, Bryce Corbett, Australian Financial Review, 30 June 2016 Read article…

Electing Abbott put ‘principal lunatic in charge of the asylum’: Tom Hughes, Margot Saville, Crikey, 30 June 2016 Read article…

Hughes Family Tree

1. The inheritance
2. Childhood and education
3. ‘It’s great flying all day, morning and afternoon’
4. ‘A relatively lucky and safe war’
5. ‘A mixture of frustration and hope . . . followed by disappointment’
6. ‘With optimism as one’s guiding star’
7. ‘Right out of national security central casting’
8. ‘I felt as if I was walking a tight-rope’
9. An ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’
10. ‘The Queen’s Agent administering the law for her’
11. Public order: ‘exercising caution, moderation and restraint’
12. Testing the extent of Commonwealth power
13. ‘You change the course with no regrets for the past’
14. President of the NSW Bar Association
15. ‘The best of times’ and ‘the worst of times’
16. The Robinson Royal Commission
17. ‘From silk to riches’
18. Two ‘happy & auspicious’ events
19. An ‘exquisitely difficult case’ and a ‘difficult’ client
20. Four defamation cases
21. ‘The venerable lion of the Sydney bar’
22. ‘I am still enjoying practice’
23. ‘The profession has every reason to be grateful to you’

Chapter Notes
Select Bibliography

There are many biographies of Queen’s Counsel who become judges, but not many of QCs who do not go on to be judges. This biography of Tom Hughes is one of those few. Hughes was much more than a QC, and this makes for a very interesting life story. … The biography is written by Ian Hancock, a non-lawyer, who is an Editorial Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. Hancock has done an outstanding job, giving chapter and verse of Hughes’ 92 years to date. He gives more than that by detailing Hughes’ ancestral family history of? four earlier generations in Australia. … The book provides a snapshot of the political and legal landscape over the past 50 years. Altogether, it is an exceptionally enjoyable book for a lawyer to read. Read review… – Robert O’Connor QC, Brief, Law Society Journal WA, September 2016

Most Sydney lawyers have a repertoire of Tom Hughes stories. He became a legend in his lifetime, and was still practising as a barrister well into his 80s. His trademark was a rare ability to persuade and intimidate: judges, juries, witnesses, legal opponents, clients, colleagues, all. Instructing solicitors were fair game, yet it was always an honour to work with Hughes. For more than 50 years he was a commanding presence in Australian and English courts. And as Ian Hancock demonstrates in this excellent biography, he has lived a life of multifaceted eminence. … Hancock explains the root cause of Hughes’s notorious “frostiness”. It is a ­symptom of inner tension. To quote Hughes’s diary again: “This idiosyncrasy must be difficult for those around me at the time; but that is the way I am made; and I fear nothing will alter me.” Read review… – Roy Williams, The Australian, 6 August 2016

The subtitle of this compellingly readable biography of Thomas Eyre Forrest Hughes AO QC borrows the underlying philosophical metaphor of the independent Bar. A barrister is available for hire by those who will pay the fee, irrespective of personal, political, social, or other co- incidence with the client, or approval or disapproval of his or her cause. Hughes’s advocacy style has been described as declamatory and theatrical, a characteristic pose was, with ‘menacing pirouette’, to address the side, or even the rear of the courtroom. Occasionally there would be penetrating wit, as when he said of a trade union hearing which had expelled his client that to describe it as a kangaroo court ‘would be an understatement and an insult to a great Australian marsupial’. Hughes emerges from the book as a warm, generous, and thoughtful man, notwithstanding an initial somewhat austere impression. He had the same secretary for over four decades and the same farm manager for three – a good indication of his human side. Read review… – Peter Heerey, Australian Book Review, August 2016

When preparing for his biographical Koh-i-Noor – big but not dull – Ian Hancock must have been tempted by the modern format involving a peak experience and a flashback to the rest of the life. In the case of Thomas Eyre Forrest Hughes, however, Hancock’s difficulty might well have been deciding which peak experience to go for. Intrepid World War II Sunderland flying boat skipper on U-boat hunting patrols over the Atlantic with perhaps a reference to Ivan Southall’s classic of such warfare, Fly West, to supplement the modest Hughes account. Attorney General, during the Vietnam War, famed for using a cricket bat to defend his enclosed home in Sydney’s Bellevue Hill. Contrasting his disciplined career with that of one of his younger brothers, the rambunctious art critic Robert Hughes. His relations, social and legal, with his Bellevue Hill neighbours the Packers. His appearance for Lionel Murphy, surely the only High Court judge in the silk and fustian patchwork of English Common Law (domestic and foreign) to appear in the dock charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Resisting the temptation, Hancock begins at the beginning with the birth of Tom Hughes in 1923, coupling it with his Irish and English lineage to provide an invaluable social history of colonial and modern Australia. … Hancock’s sub-title A Cab on the Rank is judicious for he makes it clear that the other version First cab off the rank does not always apply; he relates how Hughes raised his fee to deter an unwanted client. Read review… – James Murray, Annals Australasia, July 2016

This biographical work of Hughes by Ian Hancock is a fitting and formidable work. It is exhaustingly well researched and superbly constructed. The style is fluid and flowing whilst at the same time being informative and detailed. It is a pleasure to read. That is not surprising given the abilities of the esteemed author. Read review… – Queensland Law Reporter – 22 July 2016 – [2016] 28 QLR

Crime, defamation, constitutional issues, commercial litigation, inquiries – for 60 years Tom Hughes was there, a big man with a big capacity for the big cases. … He has attained almost legendary status as being perhaps the last of his kind. The case for reading his biography is substantial on these grounds alone, and reinforced because Hughes’ story comprises many other fascinating narratives. Read review… – Kate Allman, Law Society Journal NSW, July 2016

Hughes’ personal life is dealt with candidly by the author. After the end of his first marriage Hughes found there was no shortage in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs of divorcees looking for another husband but ultimately he entered a very successful second marriage. … Hughes’ comments on judges and colleagues in diaries and letters could be caustic. Two judges of the NSW Court of Appeal are referred to as “an intellectually inferior breed of judicial monkey”. Another judge is described as “ill-tempered, discourteous, suspicious and slow”. A fellow silk is portrayed as a “strange mixture of dishonesty, stupidity and sanctimoniousness”. … This is certainly a book to be enjoyed by lawyers but also by anyone who has an interest in the legal profession and some of the best-known cases of the post-war years. Read review… – Michael Sexton, SMH, 15 July 2016

This absorbing biography falls into three parts: before politics; politics; after politics. The early chapters trace a family saga of almost epic proportions, beginning with the arrival in 1840 of Hughes’s great-great-grandparents as boat people from Ireland. His grandfather Sir Thomas Hughes – like his own daughter Lucy Turnbull a century later – rises to the position of lord mayor of Sydney. His father Geoffrey is a first world war flying ace, who engages in a pitched battle with Baron Manfred von Richthofen, and shoots down von Richthofen’s brother Lothar (who then recovers in hospital). In the second world war it seems inevitable that Tom should enlist in the airforce. Unlike his father, he is not a very good pilot, but he assists in the Normandy landing. … Tom Hughes QC: A Cab on the Rank is splendidly produced, and halfway through comes a lavish portfolio of photographs, the most recent of them from February this year. Read review… – Tony Blackshield, Inside Story, 1 July 2016

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