ON THE EDGES OF HISTORY: A Memoir of Law, Books and Politics
Pages: 276 pages
Publication Date: July 2015
Michael Sexton has taken part in and recorded some of the most interesting history of Australia’s post-war years. He tells the story here of his major cases as a lawyer, many of them as Solicitor General for New South Wales, and of his long involvement with politics and public administration. He recounts the controversies surrounding some of his own books, in particular, his account of the Whitlam government where he worked as a ministerial adviser and his use of secret documents to reveal how Australia forced its way into the Vietnam War in the 1960s. This is a fascinating look at some of modern Australia’s legal, political and literary history.
Quotes from On the Edges of History:
… the most striking feature of many legal bodies is their indifference to the victims of crime. This is, indeed, a problem of the entire criminal justice system.
The problem is not that judges have any sympathy for criminal conduct but that the level of violence and brutality is often so far removed from their own experiences that they find it hard to imagine.
While sitting in a café in Calcutta, I read an article in an English newspaper about the Whitlam government. Canberra sounded like a place of high excitement and the government sounded like a complete shambles. Both turned out to be right.
… Kerr’s failure in November 1975 was not to tell Whitlam what he was thinking.
The real point, therefore, of the [Vietnam] book is the almost desperate effort by some ministers and public servants to involve Australia in this conflict.
The focus on the presidency, however, ultimately became the central weakness of the republican campaign.
… my own view was that a bill or charter of rights was, and is, fundamentally anti-democratic at a conceptual level and essentially impractical in its operation.
Michael Sexton SC is NSW Solicitor General. He has been an academic lawyer, barrister and public administrator and has written several books on Australian history and politics.