Maurice McCrae Blackburn (19 November 1880 – 31 March 1944) was an Australian politician and socialist lawyer, noted for his protection of the interests of workers and the establishment of the legal firm known as Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.
|Member of the Australian Parliament for Bourke|
15 September 1934 – 7 July 1943
|Preceded by||Frank Anstey|
|Succeeded by||Bill Bryson|
|16th Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly|
11 October 1933 – 1 August 1934
|Preceded by||Alexander Peacock|
|Succeeded by||William Everard|
|Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Clifton Hill|
9 April 1927 – 1 August 1934
|Preceded by||Electorate established|
|Succeeded by||Bert Cremean|
|Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Fitzroy|
4 February 1925 – 4 March 1927
|Preceded by||John Billson|
|Succeeded by||Electorate abolished|
|Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Essendon|
26 November 1914 – 24 October 1917
|Preceded by||William Watt|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Ryan|
|Born||19 November 1880|
Inglewood, Victoria Colony, British Empire
|Died||31 March 1944 (aged 63)|
Prahran, Victoria, Australia
|Cause of death||Cerebral tumour|
|Resting place||Box Hill Cemetery|
|Victorian Socialist Party|
|Parents||Maurice Blackburn Sr. |
|Education||Melbourne Grammar School|
|Alma mater||University of Melbourne (BA, LLB)|
Following the death of his father in 1887, Blackburn and his mother moved to Melbourne where he was educated at Melbourne Grammar School, matriculating in 1896. He attended the University of Melbourne, graduating in arts and law in 1909, and began to practice as a lawyer a year later. In the same year, he also became a member of the Victorian Socialist Party and was soon editing its newspaper, The Socialist. Later, in about 1908, he joined the Australian Labor Party.
Blackburn married Doris Amelia Hordern on 10 December 1914. Two weeks earlier he had entered the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the Labor member for the Electoral district of Essendon, but lost his seat in 1917, due largely to his strong anti-war and anti-conscription stances. He returned to practising law, establishing the firm Maurice Blackburn & Co. in 1919, dealing primarily in trade union law and civil liberties cases.
During his time practising law, Blackburn won cases that played a key role in establishing rights most Australians now take for granted, including the 40-hour working week, wage equality for indigenous workers, and equal pay for women.
Blackburn made his mark on Australian politics in 1921 when he led a successful move to have the socialisation of the means of production added to Labor's official platform (which became known as the "socialist objective"). Returning to state Parliament as the member for Fitzroy in a 1925 by-election, Blackburn introduced legislation aimed at removing discrimination against women, and opposed what he saw as repressive economic measures proposed during the depression. In 1933, he was elected Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, but resigned from the Assembly in 1934 so he could contest the Federal seat of Bourke, based on the suburbs of Brunswick and Coburg in Melbourne. Although he won Bourke and held it until 1943, his relationship with the Labor Party was chequered.
Blackburn's support for international socialism, and his opposition to conscription, frequently caused him to take positions opposed to Labor policy and, in October 1935, he was expelled over his membership of the Movement Against War and Fascism. He was soon re-admitted to the ALP, but expelled again in 1941 for his support of the Australia-Soviet Friendship League. His expulsion was seen as a warning to other left-wing MPs that violation of party policy was not to be tolerated. Blackburn continued to serve as the member for Bourke as an independent, voting against the Labor government's conscription bill, but he lost his seat at the 1943 election to the official Labor candidate.
Blackburn died of cerebral tumour on 31 March 1944, in Prahran, Victoria, and was buried in Box Hill Cemetery, survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter, and his mother. His estate, which included a fine library, was sworn for probate at £2,552. In a eulogy, Australian Prime Minister John Curtin referred to Blackburn as "one of the great servants of the people of the Commonwealth of Australia". His widow, Doris, won Bourke as an Independent Labour candidate at the 1946 election and spent much of her time in Parliament promoting similar policies to those that Blackburn had supported.
- Blackburn Abeyasekere, Susan. Blackburn, Maurice McCrae (1880–1944). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 7 February 2015. Published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979.
- Rasmussen, Carolyn. Blackburn, Doris Amelia (1889–1970). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 7 February 2015. Published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993
- Day, David (2019), Maurice Blackburn : champion of the people, Scribe, ISBN 978-1-925713-78-7
- "About Maurice Blackburn Lawyers | Australian compensation law firm".
- Blackburn, Susan; Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (1969), Maurice Blackburn and the Australian Labor Party, 1934-1943 : a study of principle in politics, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, retrieved 8 March 2020
- McKellar, John; Anti-Conscription Campaign (Melbourne, Vic.); McKellar, John, 1881-1966 (1945), Maurice Blackburn and the struggle for freedom, The Anti-conscription Campaign, retrieved 8 March 2020CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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