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Justin O'Byrne

Justin O'Byrne (AOT, PH30/1/5054)

Justin Hilary O'Byrne (191294), politician and formerly Second World War RAAF fighter pilot and prisoner of war, served as a Tasmanian Labor senator from 1946 to 1981, and was elected President of the Senate, 1973–75. Brought up a Catholic, O'Byrne was denounced by Archbishop Guilford Young for supporting divorce legislation. A strong opponent of Brian Harradine, O'Byrne moved his expulsion from the Labor Party and they frequently clashed in the Senate. O'Byrne led protests against the Vietnam War and attacked 'hydro-industrialisation' and the Gordon-below-Franklin dam.

A popular figure in northern Tasmania, O'Byrne's combination of traditional socialism and conservationism appealed to the young. During his long political career, he proved an effective political campaigner. In his final period, O'Byrne became disillusioned with the Broad Left domination of Tasmanian Labor.

Further reading: R Davis, Eighty years' Labor, Hobart, 1983.

Richard Davis