To provide the reader with a biographical sketch of the late E.F. (Ted) Hill, published below are three tributes paid to him by well known Australians soon after his death on February 1, 1988.
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On February 18, 1988, Senator RC Cooney delivered the following valedictory address to the Senate of the Parliament of Australia.
Last Sunday a memorial service was held in the Wesley Hall, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne for Ted Hill – Edward Fowler Hill. Many people attended: judges past and present, union leaders, academics, surgeons, politicians, public servants, and people who lead and have led great movements. The number of those who attended together with the width of beliefs they represented gave grand testimony to Ted Hill. They made manifest the extraordinary range of his friends and admirers.
A great number of progressive people were attracted to Ted. This is unremarkable. More remarkable is the great number of those of conservative bent who called him friend. On Tuesday, 2 February 1988, the Sydney Morning Herald headlined its report of Ted Hill’s passing with the words, “Leading Communist lawyer dies after illness of 15 years”. This is an accurate though inadequate description of what he was.
Ted Hill was born in 1915 and died on 1 February 1988. He lived more than three score years and ten, and they were filled with great achievements. He was indeed a communist, as the Sydney Morning Herald noted. He adhered faithfully to his beliefs over many years. He was a leading member of the Marxist-Leninist Party at the time of his death. Many who did not share his philosophy admired his willingness to place it ahead of professional self-interest. His career suffered markedly as a result.
During the 1950s, Ted Hill appeared in the Royal Commission into Communism and in the Petrov case. The decade was a crucial one for civil liberties. Ted’s advocacy for a cause, subject to fierce hostility from the great and the powerful, vindicated the right to dissent. He promoted the right of free speech by exercising it when most feared to do so. Ted Hill believed in the power of intellectual persuasion. He believed an argument, properly put, will be effective even with those at first thought implacable to it.
Ted lived his life on the basis that its various dimensions were integrated. He was a brilliant lawyer and put many a technical argument with great strength and skill. He was a powerful political theoretician. He had a deep concern with social dynamics, but he saw that significant change in Australia was not based on any one of these alone. Legal argument, enfused with social and political beliefs and transformed by a grand vision, can do much. On its own it makes for stagnation. Passionate political and social principles on their own do not provide the machinery to effect that change.
His approach to legal work is compelling evidence of this. Ted Hill demonstrated his ability to combine high legal skill with passionately held political and social beliefs. He combined amazing medical knowledge with superb legal skills to develop a process of advocacy which he and many others used to win compensation for heart attack victims at the Workers Compensation Board.
Ted comprehended and took part in great historic movements. He was friends with a wide range of public figures in Australia. He was welcomed to China by its leadership in the 1950s and 1960s when very few Westerners visited that country.
At the same time, he was a man dedicated to the individual in distress. His approach to injured workers is compelling evidence of this. A proposition that in Victoria he has helped more injured workers in economic and social distress than has anyone else is unlikely to bring a rebuttal. Ted had great intellectual capacity, great dedication to his beliefs, great energy, great empathy with those in need and great willingness to help them. I express my condolences to Ted’s wife and children. Ted Hill has left a society much richer for his life.
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Reproduced here are two of a number of messages read to the memorial meeting referred to in Senator Cooney’s address. The first was written by the Hon. Clyde R. Cameron, A.O., a former Federal Labor government Minister. The second was written by Mr. Jack Lazarus, a well known Melbourne barrister.
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Ted Hill was one of Australia’s really great sons. He was a man of great intellect, but more importantly, he was a man of high principle; a man who never once betrayed his trust. For the whole of his life he served the cause of the working class.
In pecuniary terms, he paid heavily for his deep commitment to the class he loved and admired.
Gifts of luxury cars, free accommodation at luxury hotels and pleasure resorts, free air fares, free shares, family perks, cash “donations” and the like could not buy Ted Hill’s betrayal.
His principles were not for sale; and right to his last breath on this earth he remained faithful to his class and to his beliefs. He could not be bought.
I first learned of Ted Hill, the brilliant barrister, in the year 1954, when he worked in close association with Labor’s leader, the Rt. Hon. Herbert Vere Evatt QC to expose the Petrov Affair for what it was – a filthy political scandal that was orchestrated to allow the Liberal Party to defeat Labor in the general election of 1954.
Dr Evatt often spoke with me about the valued legal advice and assistance he had received from Ted in that disgraceful episode that cost Evatt the Prime Ministership.
As Labor’s spokesman on Industrial Relations prior to the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, I too benefitted from Ted’s valuable experience in the law. He gladly helped me to draft a Bill for a new and greatly improved Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. And, he did so free of charge.
ed Hill had a brilliant legal mind; and had he been willing to forsake his social and political beliefs, he would have been appointed to the judiciary. But as I have already observed, neither profit nor power could buy the great Ted Hill!
Ted commanded the respect and admiration of all who knew him well. To his grieving widow, family and close friends, I say that I know the depth of your grief. But try to temper your sadness with the justifiable pride you must feel at being so close to such a great human being.
Clyde R. Cameron
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Ted was a life-long friend to me and my family.
He had more humaneness and kindness than anyone I’ve ever known.
Whatever the circumstances he’d give what help he possibly could to anyone in trouble or distress.
He epitomised the phrase “serve the people” as no one I’ve ever known has.
He was respected by all members of his profession.
Ted was a world figure in his own right.
His disdain for personal recognition and aggrandisement in any form came naturally to him.
He rejected all “honours” which a social system and its supporters he regarded as evil and awful, might want to give him.
Ted was truly a model Communist, in action and deed. This is an indisputable fact.
He would not have agreed this was so, but I’m sure it’s the only tribute he would have regarded as worthwhile.
It was his great appeal to people of many diverse and opposing views.
I do know this; to know Ted was the outstanding inspiration and privilege of my life.
Mina and I and my family will sorely miss him for the remainder of our days.
His political erudition, his analytical powers make his death an irreplaceable loss to the working people of this country and indeed throughout the world.
Every decent and honest person in Australia mourns him.
If it were possible to send a last message to Ted, it would have been – “with all our love”.