Sir Harry Gibbs: Without Fear or Favour

Recommendation: It’s not like there’s a lot of judicial biography to choose from… 

Where to read: Light summer reading for the legally obsessed 

Read with: Tea**

In brief: This is not so much biography as hagiography. Indeed, one begins to suspect rather early in the piece that the subject had a certain degree of editorial control. 


Let’s be honest, the title does rather give the game away… this is a kind of literary black and white photograph or bronzed mirror. I’d say it pulls its punches but that would imply that there was anything vaguely resembling a punch to pull. Written to flatter, it displays a remarkable lack of critical thought – I would suggest that you check your legally trained, enquiring mind at the door for this one. 

It also goes further than just making him look good, mounting a staunch defence of judicial conservativism and, for that matter, social conservatism. The latter half in particular is effectively just a mouthpiece for his views on the horrifying dangers of Australian republicanism with some snarky comments about Mabo thrown in. It’s also hilariously pro-Queensland, not precisely surprising considering the funding source, but quite funny to read, and it name drops like no one’s business. 

The real interest, at least for a young’n, comes when you read it as a historical artefact, a snapshot of public discourse and the legal profession in the ‘90s.

**In honour of the Tea Club.

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