John Murphy opens his magisterial study of Herbert Vere Evatt – the fourth major biography of the good doctor – with an essay on the challenge of writing biography in general, and of writing one on Evatt in particular. He prefaces this discussion with a short description of one fateful and illuminating incident late in Evatt’s political career. On the evening of 19 October 1955 in the House of Representatives, during a debate on the Petrov Royal Commission, Evatt, then leader of the federal ALP, stunned his followers and invited the derision of his opponents when he claimed that he had been in communication with Vyacheslav Molotov, Russian foreign minister and a Stalin henchman for thirty years, who had declared that disputed documents before the Commission were forgeries. The prime minister, Robert Menzies, who had feared a forensic dissection of the Commission Report, could not believe his luck: ‘The Lord hath delivered him into my hands.’
Neal Blewett reviews 'Evatt: A life' by John Murphy
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Neal Blewett has had a varied career as academic, politician, and diplomat. A Tasmanian Rhodes scholar, he taught successively at the Universities of Oxford and Adelaide and became Professor of Political Theory and Institutions at Flinders University. He has written books and articles on British and Australian history and politics. As Health Minister in the Hawke government he was responsible for the introduction of Medicare and Australia’s Aids policy. His diary of the Keating government was published in 1999. From 1994 to 1998 he was Australian High Commissioner in London as well as a member of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. He now writes, gardens, and walks in the Blue Mountains.
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