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Michael Sexton

Michael Sexton

Michael Sexton SC is a graduate of the law schools of the universities of Melbourne and Virginia, and spent some years as an academic lawyer before taking up practice at the NSW Bar. Since 1998 he has been Solicitor General for New South Wales. He is co-author of the Australian text on defamation law and the author of several books on Australian politics and history.

Michael Sexton reviews two books on Australian espionage

October 2023, no. 458 24 September 2023
The life of a spy is based on lies, but both these books make an attempt to separate fact from fiction in the stories of their subjects. The first book tells the remarkable story of how an Australian from a rather unlikely background rose almost to the top of Britain’s foreign spy service, MI6, and was later accused of being not just a double but a triple agent. Charles Howard Ellis, always kno ... (read more)

Michael Sexton reviews 'Bench and Book' by Nicholas Hasluck

September 2022, no. 446 27 August 2022
Nicholas Hasluck is that relatively rare combination of practising lawyer and accomplished writer. A former judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, he has also produced more than a dozen novels and as many works of non-fiction. This duality of roles is not unknown. Two contemporary examples that come to mind are Jonathan Sumption, who was on the UK Supreme Court and is a medieval historia ... (read more)

Michael Sexton reviews 'Robert Menzies: The art of politics' by Troy Bramston

June–July 2019, no. 412 23 May 2019
There have been at least half a dozen previous biographies of Robert Menzies, but Troy Bramston’s new life of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister is arguably the most attractive combination of research and readability. Menzies was born in 1894 in the Victorian country town of Jeparit. Its population was then only two hundred, but Menzies did not have a deprived childhood. His father ra ... (read more)

Michael Sexton reviews 'Australia's Vietnam: Myth vs history' by Mark Dapin

May 2019, no. 411 21 April 2019
Almost all historical events are attended by myths, some of them remarkably persistent, but Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War has perhaps more than its fair share. Mark Dapin has set out to dispel what he sees as six of these myths, which he first encountered working on his book The Nashos’ War, published in 2014. The first myth is that all the national servicemen who went to Vietnam ... (read more)

Michael Sexton reviews 'Stern Justice: The Forgotten Story of Australia, Japan and the Pacific War Crimes Trials' by Adam Wakeling

December 2018, no. 407 27 November 2018
Justice or vengeance? This is always the question raised by war crimes trials, although it might be noted that they are a relatively recent historical phenomenon. Some were proposed at the end of the Great War but never eventuated. The original and best known is, of course, Nuremberg at the end of World War II. Over the decades, there have been various prosecutions by the International Criminal Co ... (read more)

Michael Sexton reviews 'Randomistas: How radical researchers changed our world' by Andrew Leigh

September 2018, no. 404 23 August 2018
Unusual for a federal parliamentarian, Andrew Leigh is a former academic economist and author of several serious books, these being distinguished from the vapid and self-serving memoirs published in recent times by many current and former politicians. Leigh’s latest book, Randomistas, is an argument for the utility of randomised tests as one of the most valuable means of obtaining evidence on w ... (read more)