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Andrew Inglis Clark

While Attorney-General in the Fysh and Braddon Governments, Clark became the most productive and progressive Tasmanian Attorney-General of the nineteenth century. He introduced 228 Bills into the House of Assembly and, displaying superlative drafting skills, modernised and consolidated the law on a wide range of subjects.

Letters Patent appointing Clark Attorney General of Tasmania 1894 - Enlarge

As a democrat and a representative of the working man, Clark sought to break the power of property in Tasmanian politics. He believed in 'the rights of man' and advocated participation of working men, women and minorities in the electoral process. His legislative programme sought to remove inequalities in social and economic affairs, and ensure all citizens reached their full potential.

Clark's best known achievement was the introduction of the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation based on the concept of the single transferable vote. He failed to secure manhood suffrage and womanhood suffrage, but did secure the passage of social and industrial laws, such as amending the licensing acts, protecting children from neglect and abuse, legalising trade unions, preventing cruelty to animals, and updating the marriage, defamation, trustee and companies laws.

Clark as judge weaaring wig and gown 1898
From photograph of Clark in the
Tasmanian Mail, 24 December 1898

Clark's judgments were detached and fair and gave no hint that he allowed himself to be influenced by the strong political, moral, and social values which he privately held.

Clark (top left) Tasmanian Mail 24 December, 1898

While a Supreme Court Judge, Clark published his Studies in Constitutional Law in 1901, which confirmed his reputation as a leading constitutional lawyer. This strengthened his claim to a position on the High Court, but he was denied this much desired prize. In 1903 the chance of a seat evaporated when the Commonwealth Parliament cut the number of High Court Judges from five to three. In 1906 when the bench was enlarged he was again passed over and this soured relations with his Federation colleague Prime Minister Alfred Deakin. Clark remained on the Tasmanian Supreme Court until his death in 1907.

Clark's briefcase


Judge's wig and gavel

Clark resigned as Attorney-General after his Cabinet colleagues did not seek his advice over the legality of leasing Crown land to a private company. After a period as Leader of the Opposition, Clark left politics to become a Judge of the Tasmanian Supreme Court in June 1898.

Although his forte was constitutional law, as a Judge Clark's time was divided between presiding in jury trials in civil and criminal jurisdictions, hearing civil cases as the sole Judge, and receiving appeals from lower courts. One of his most celebrated cases, Pedder v. D'Emden involved constitutional law and the doctrine of intergovernmental immunities.

Pedder v. D'Emden - enlarge

This was the first important constitutional law case heard by the High Court, which supported Clark's dissenting judgment and established the principle that the judiciary had authority under the Constitution to determine the limits of the powers of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments and to invalidate legislation which exceeded those powers.

Judges robe as worn by Clark


Portraits of judges admired by Clark - Enlarge image


Last Modified: 04-Nov-2003