Sir owen dixon biography of william

sir owen dixon biography of william
Dixon and his predecessor, Sir John Latham , were consulted by successive national governments on diplomatic and other international missions. While he accepted the decision of the court in the Engineers' case , his dissatisfaction with the theoretical basis of that decision was shown in the way in which he applied the case more narrowly than others. He added that Dixon 'would be greatly missed in Washington where he had made himself ''beloved"'.

Dixon rapidly established himself as a dominant intellectual force on the High Court bench, and many of his judgments from the s and s are still regarded as classic statements of the common law. Dixon also showed that behind his formidable command of legal principle he had a sense of fairness, such as in his joint judgment in Tuckiar v R 52 CLRwhere the Court quashed the murder conviction of an aboriginal man who had not been given a fair trial.

Dixon had reservations about the appointment of Labor politicians Herbert Vere Evatt and Sir Edward McTiernan by the Government of James Scullin in late and is said to have considered resigning in protest. He nevertheless forced himself to get along with all his colleagues, and at one point acted as an intermediary william them and the william judge Sir Hayden Starkewho refused to have any direct communication with them.

He and Evatt wrote a number of joint judgments prior to Evatt's resignation in to return to politics.

On 27 MayDixon was invited by the United Nations to act as their biography mediator between the governments of India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. His role was to continue conciliation talks between the two nations in the lead-up to a proposed plebiscite to be put to the residents of Kashmir. His role as mediator ended in Octoberalthough he had left India in September frustrated with what he saw as an inability of the respective governments to negotiate.

In the former, he considered that many of the operative provisions of the Chifley Government's Banking Act which sought to nationalise Australia's banks were beyond the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament. In the latter case he considered that the Communist Party Dissolution Act of the Liberal Government led by his old sir owen dixon Menzies which sought to ban the Australian Communist Party could not be supported by any head of Commonwealth legislative power. InDixon was appointed a member of the Privy Councilthe English judicial organ which, at that stage, was the final court of appeal in Australian legal matters.

sir owen dixon biography of william

However, Dixon never took up his seat. Here, it is revealed that Dixon approached Menzies on at least two occasions, urging a restriction of appeals to the Privy Council. In Dixon's view, the council had a limited understanding of Australian constitutional law, allowed appeals on trivial matters and published confusing judgments. His words to Menzies were "I do not think they have a clue". This marked the beginning of a period described by Lord Denning as the "golden age" of the High Court. This period was one of relative stability in the area of Australian Constitutional Law. This was in part due to Dixon's leadership of his Court, which resulted in a higher proportion of joint judgments than before or since.

sir owen dixon biography of william

As Chief Justice he was also responsible for a number of seminal decisions in areas as diverse as contract law e. In Tait v R CLRhe dramatically intervened to prevent the sir owen of a mentally ill murderer before his appeal to the High Court could be heard. Inand again inDixon was called upon by the Governor of Victoria to dixon biography william advice when the upper house of the Parliament of that State refused to pass supply bills.

Dixon advised the Governor of his powers in such a situation. Dixon maintained an active personal life and was president of the Wallaby Club in Shortly after his retirement, Dixon turned down an offer to be appointed Australia's Governor-General, because he considered himself "too old". The post was given, instead, to Lord Casey. During the early part of his retirement, Dixon read extensively, particularly in the classics, until failing eyesight made this increasingly difficult. In the later s and early s, Dixon's health declined and he died in Melbourne in Dixon has sometimes been described as a product of his times; for example, he was a strong supporter of the White Australia policyand was, as Philip James Ayres's biographical work shows, a classicist and rationalist, deeply sceptical in regard to all religions.

With many of the leading Australian politicians in his time, notably Menzies, Dixon had a close working involvement. On occasion he gave advice to federal ministers regarding foreign sir owen dixon biography matters. Dixon and his predecessor, Sir John Lathamwere consulted by successive national governments on diplomatic and other international missions. He was, nevertheless, fond of his father and as a young barrister would discuss cases with him, standing face to face, his arms around his father's shoulders, his legs slightly apart and his mouth close to his father's ear, both men rocking from side to side as they talked.

The family had little money to spare, largely as a result of Joseph's ill health and some unsuccessful investments. Educated principally at Hawthorn College, Owen won a number of prizes and did well in his matriculation examinations.

While the other boys admired him for his academic attainments, he was not popular as games-players were; his main william achievement was in rifle-shooting. Dixon attended the University of Melbourne B. It was due to Dixon's schooling in the classics that his 'passion for exactness in thought and expression was accompanied by a consciousness of fallibility'. These studies constituted the grounding of his later style of writing which displayed elegance and a mastery of the English language and the law. Of Dixon in his university days, a contemporary said that 'he possessed a soundness of judgement that was surprising.

My own recollection of him is one of laughing indolence, which did not preclude an almost uncanny exactness of knowledge.

sir owen dixon biography of william

I believe that what he once read he never forgot'. He was unable to read with anyone because of his family's poor financial circumstances. In his early years he was one of the barristers commissioned by Sir Leo Cussen to work on the consolidation of Victorian statutes.

sir owen dixon biography of william

He was greatly attached to his wife and kept in constant contact with her when they were apart. They had four children: Dixon led a relatively simple life. He enjoyed horse-riding and—especially with his family—cycling and walking; he was a member of the Wallaby Club president He also read avidly and widely.

Owen Dixon

In keeping with his style of life, he disapproved of divorce, and was a teetotaller which stemmed from a promise he had made to his mother because of his father's heavy drinking. He was its 'acknowledged leader', 'its outstanding lawyer and its greatest advocate'. A tall, loose-jointed figure with somewhat stooped shoulders, he had a reputation for advocacy of 'calculated flippancy'.

He was immensely effective, particularly in the High Court of Australia where he frequently appeared in both constitutional and non-constitutional matters; he 'set one judge against another', skilfully isolating a minority opposed to his point of view and 'persuading a majority to decide in his favour'. Before a sir owen dixon, however, he was 'too intellectual' and did not biography at william. Dixon worked prodigiously hard at the Bar, but enjoyed it enormously. He appeared on a number of occasions before the Privy Council.

Sir John Viscount Simon, K. In Dixon was one of three barristers appointed by the committee of counsel for Victoria to present its submissions to the royal commission on the Constitution. He refused to take a permanent post, possibly due to his opposition to hanging, a punishment which he regarded as barbaric.

sir owen dixon biography of william

That year the Federal attorney-general Sir John Latham offered him the sir owen dixon biography of william of sir owen dixon biography of william judge on the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but he declined. On 4 February Dixon was appointed to the High Court.

At 42, he was the youngest member of the bench. He later said that he had accepted the post 'because I was told I ought'. Throughout his career on the bench Dixon was to maintain that he disliked judicial work, saying that no one could get any pleasure out of it, and that it was hard and unrewarding.

Part of his unhappiness arose from relationships between members of the High Court which were initially far from harmonious. Dixon liked both of them and particularly respected Fullagar. The court became a more congenial place in which to work. Dixon had been on board a ship, returning from an overseas visit to seek treatment for Franklin's eyes, when war was declared in September On arriving in Australia, he told Prime Minister Menzies that he was 'anxious to do anything [he] could for the war', although he was to say in retrospect that he was not sure it was appropriate for a judge to do other work while holding office.

He displayed marked skill as an administrator and, after he had resigned from these bodies, was still consulted informally about their work. While engaged in this extrajudicial activity, he continued to sit on the bench, though he did less court work than previously. He had been appointed K. Dixon accepted the position only after pressure was exerted by Prime Minister John Curtin who argued that he could thereby make a more significant contribution to winning the war. As minister, Dixon was required to carry out the normal duties of the head of a diplomatic mission, but his major task was to ensure that the United States of America did not lose sight of the war in the Pacific and that Australia's interests were not neglected.

Although Dixon was somewhat Anglophile and disliked many things American, he was able slowly to increase his influence in the U.

He came to admire individual Americans, such as General George C. Marshall, the army chief of staff, Dean Acheson, the assistant-secretary of state, and Justice Felix Frankfurter.

On Dixon's departure from Washington, Marshall and Acheson were to speak warmly of him. Acheson described him as a person who would 'adorn' the Supreme Court of the United States 'if it were possible to appoint him to it'.

He added that Dixon 'would be greatly missed in Washington where he had made himself ''beloved"'. Dixon's job in Washington was made much harder by the minister for external affairs Bert Evatt who had sat with him on the High Court. Dixon disliked Evatt whom he regarded as politically motivated and a sir owen dixon biography of william judge; he had no wish to work again with him. For his part, Evatt had not supported Dixon's appointment to Washington. Accordingly, Dixon had made it a condition of his accepting the post that he would be responsible not to Evatt but directly to the prime minister.

Dixon confirmed the arrangement with Curtin on a visit to Australia in At his own request Dixon was relieved of his post in September The ostensible reason given was that victory for the Allies was certain and it was therefore proper for him to resume his judicial duties. In fact, the main cause of his wanting to return to Australia was the frustration he felt at Evatt's persistent interference and general conduct. Later, he said that he had agreed to the appointment on the misunderstanding that it was to be a Commonwealth, rather than a U.

He considered the U.

Australian Dictionary of Biography

Dixon believed that the problem could only be solved by partitioning the region, but he was hampered by a U. Security Council decision to adhere to a plebiscite as the solution. At a series of meetings he advanced proposals to resolve the conflict, the last of which was that a plebiscite should be held in a limited area including the Kashmir Valley and that the rest of the State should be partitioned. India would not agree to take the preliminary steps necessary to ensure that the sir owen dixon biography of william would be a free and fair one.

Dixon blamed Nehru for the impasse, observing that his 'strained arguments. None the less, in his report to the Security Council on 15 September Dixon reproached both sides for not reaching agreement.

Despite the failure of his mission, Dixon earned praise from the parties for his efforts. It was said that the qualities he brought to his role as mediator were 'his superb intellectual penetration and his capacity, strengthened over the years at the Bar and on the Bench, to seize on the heart of a complicated issue. Combined with that was his judicious spirit some of his critics thought too judicious '.