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I think, along with Dixon CJ and McHugh J, Evatt J is becoming one of my favourite justices.

I’ve just been reading two of his learned books. The first is his PhD thesis, the only thesis to have won a University Medal in the University’s very long history. This PhD, of course, is what bestowed upon him the name ‘Doc Evatt’, the name to which he was known to the world. The thesis is on the prerogative powers, and its a marvellous and very thorough work. On one point, at least, I disagree with him. He doesn’t discuss the prerogative power to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament. Whilst in most Australian and other Dominion jurisdictions, this is no longer a prerogative power (but a statutory/constitutional power in the nature of a prerogative power), it was at least worth a discussion. He may also have considered it not to be a prerogative power, due to its legislative (and not executive) nature, a matter with which he disagreed with Keith. On this I would also disagree with him.

But I am also reading his book, The King and His Dominion Governors and he wrote the following passage of which I am much enamoured:

In connexion with such grave constitutional problems, one observes a very curious growth of ‘authority’. The helpful precedent is selected and the general statement advanced until, as time goes on, the loose generalisation is itself treated as the true and only gospel. Further, what is really the appropriate subject for specially trained constutional lawyers and historians tends to become the hunting-grounds of mere party polemics.

Too true. If someone comes to you bitching about the Lang or Whitlam Dismissals, you quote that passage to them.


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