Justin O'Byrne

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Justin O'Byrne
Portrait of the Hon. Justin O'Byrne as President of the Senate
Senator for Tasmania
In office
1 July 1947 – 30 June 1981
President of the Australian Senate
In office
9 July 1974 – 11 November 1975
Preceded by Sir Magnus Cormack
Succeeded by Condor Laucke
Personal details
Born (1912-06-01)1 June 1912
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Died 10 November 1993(1993-11-10) (aged 81)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service 1940–1946
Rank Flight Lieutenant
Unit No. 452 Squadron RAAF

Justin Hilary O'Byrne, AO (1 June 1912 – 10 November 1993) was a long-serving Australian Labor Party politician who represented Tasmania in the Federal Senate from 1947 to 1981, acting as President of the Senate from 1974 to 1975.


Justin O'Byrne was born in Launceston, Tasmania, and was educated at St Patrick's College. At the age of 18, during the Great Depression, he travelled to Queensland where he spent ten years working a variety of jobs including drover, fencer, bullock driver, tank sinker and station overseer.[1]

In 1940 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a pilot, becoming a member of the No. 452 Squadron RAAF which operated with No. 11 Group RAF during the Battle of Britain.[2] He was shot down over France in 1941 and was a prisoner of war in the Stalag Luft III prison camp in Germany for three years and nine months.[3]

Following the war, O'Byrne stood for the Labor Party in Tasmania in the 1946 federal election, and was elected.[4] O'Byrne's term as Senator began on 1 July 1947, and from that point, he remained in the Senate representing Tasmania until 30 June 1981.[5]

Following the double dissolution of 11 April 1974 and subsequent federal election, O'Byrne was elected President of the Senate on 9 July 1974. He held this office until the Dismissal of the Whitlam government on 11 November 1975. Senator Robert Ray said of O'Byrne's time as President of the Senate "Justin presided over the Senate during one of the most tumultuous and still controversial periods in Australian politics. The fact that there was not one dissent from his rulings, nor any vote of no confidence, is a testament to his performance and the high regard in which he was held by those on both sides of the chamber."[3]

O'Byrne retired from the Senate, his term ending on 30 June 1981. His term of 34 years was the third longest in the history of the Senate. From 1968 to 1971 he was a joint Father of the Senate, and from 1971 until his retirement he alone held this title.

On 26 January 1984, O'Byrne was made an Officer of the Order of Australia "for service to politics and government."[6]

O'Byrne died on 10 November 1993, and a state funeral was held at the Church of the Apostles in Launceston.[1]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ron Boswell (1993-11-16). "Condolences: Hon. Justin Hilary O'Byrne AO". Hansard. Retrieved 2008-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Barry Cohen (2008-04-21). "Under fire: MPs know all about it". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Robert Ray (1993-11-16). "Condolences: Hon. Justin Hilary O'Byrne AO". Hansard. Retrieved 2008-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "1946 Senate - Tasmania". Psephos. Retrieved 2008-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Members of the Senate since 1901". Parliament of Australia. Archived from the original on 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2008-06-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "It's an Honour". Retrieved 2008-06-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Political offices
Preceded by
Magnus Cormack
President of the Australian Senate
Succeeded by
Condor Laucke