Colonial Law Lords

Colonial Law Lords

The Judiciary and the Beginning of Responsible Government in New South Wales

By Dr J M Bennett AM

Responsible Government made an unsteady start when granted to New South Wales in 1856. Still evolving until Federation, the concept was so unsettled as to create major contests between the judiciary and the other arms of government.

This book begins with the premature collapse of the first Ministry in August 1856. At stake were the Lower House’s objections to the Colony’s judges being members of the Upper House as "Bunyip Law Lords". Chief Justice Stephen even aspired to be Lord Chancellor of New South Wales. Eventually, the Lower House prevailed.

It finishes with a ferocious clash in the 1880s between the Executive and the Judiciary, one of the most spectacular in Australia’s history. The populist Parkes Government refused to allow the disembarkation of Chinese immigrants from a ship in Sydney Harbour. The Supreme Court granted habeas corpus compelling their entry. The Government, driven by community fury, attempted to enforce its will by ministerial direction. Eventually it was forced to give way.

Sesquicentenary 1856-2006 Responsible Government in New South Wales   A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.


Published 14 March 2006
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862875982
Australian RRP $27.50
International Price $25.00