The isaacs court

Tony Blackshield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Sir Isaac Isaacs became Chief Justice on 2 April 1930 (having carefully avoided 1 April). After serving as a puisne Justice for over 23 years, he would be Chief Justice for 42 weeks. The appointing government fared little better. When Isaacs’ term began, James H Scullin had been Prime Minister for 23 weeks. After it ended, Scullin would remain in office for only 47 weeks more. In retrospect, the government was doomed from the outset. Scullin was elected on 12 October 1929 and sworn in as Prime Minister at 5 pm on Tuesday 22 October. On 24 October the New York stock market lost 11 per cent of its value. The final crash came on 29 October, one week after Scullin’s swearing-in. From the beginning, he faced an increasingly desperate economic situation. Moreover, because the 1929 election was brought on prematurely, it was, unusually, an election for the House of Representatives only. Hence, despite a landslide majority in the House of Representatives, the government held only 7 of the 36 seats in the Senate. Later commentators have blamed Scullin for failing to call a double dissolution, or at least to threaten a dissolution to induce greater Senate compliance. As it was, the opposition majority in the Senate grew steadily more recalcitrant.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe High Court, the Constitution and Australian Politics
EditorsRosalind Dixon, George Williams
Place of PublicationPort Melbourne, Victoria
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781107445253
ISBN (Print)9781107043664
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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