Jenny Hocking's rigorously researched and documented account of the life of Australian Labor Lawyer, politician and Judge Lionel Murphy is a real story of twentieth century achievement.
So much of what Murphy did in his life represented a huge step forward socially and politically for a country that until the mid 1970s, for example, banned many classic books, artworks and films - such as, unbelievably, statuette replicas of Michaelangelo's David! But of course removal of ludicrous censorship provisions was only a tiny part of the incredible list changes he helped bring about. The abolition of the death penalty, cheap, quick and accessible no-fault divorce laws, consumer protections, an international case to stop French nuclear testing in the pacific, free legal aid and anti-discrimination laws are part of an enduring legacy.
As a Judge on Australian's constitutional and highest appeal court Murphy was often in dissent but his judgements were enormously persuasive and the court has slowly but surely moved to his view in many cases.
Hocking's description of his last tortuous few years when he was hounded in a media and politically driven witchhunt is extremely moving. Nothing in Australian political life has ever happen like that before or since and it is no wonder that the man died from stress-related cancer as a result. This sorry episode is akin to the McCarthyite hysteria of the 1950s.
All the time though Murphy's unique character and spirit is evident. He was surely as charismatic and exciting as any politician last century.
It's a great read.