One of Australia’s most controversial politicians in the early years of the Commonwealth, Hugh Mahon has the distinction of being the only member expelled from the federal parliament. This followed a speech he made in 1920 critical of British rule in Ireland. Born in Co. Offaly in 1857, Hugh and his family emigrated to America in 1869 but returned in 1880 after their American dream failed. A crusading journalist and Land League activist in Co. Wexford, he was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol with Parnell in 1881 before fleeing to Australia where he resumed his career in journalism. As the pugnacious and racy editor of the Kalgoorlie Sun, Mahon exposed corruption in WA and became a thorn in the side of the Forrest government, successfully defending four actions for criminal libel. Elected to the first Commonwealth parliament in 1901, he was an advocate of Aboriginal rights. He served as a minister in four Labor governments, including Postmaster-General in the first Labor ministry and Minister for External Affairs in World War I. After the war his passionate campaigning for Irish self-determination led to his expulsion from parliament. A successful businessman he saw out the rest of his life as managing director of the Catholic Church Property Insurance Co. He died in 1931 and is buried in Melbourne. The biography is the story of a flawed genius who simultaneously evoked high praise and damning criticism.
Volume 1 explores Mahon’s formative years in America, his journalism and political activism in County Wexford and his career as a newspaperman and budding politician in Australia in the years leading up to his election to the first Commonwealth parliament in 1901.
Volume 2 covers the period from Mahon’s election to parliament in 1901 until his death in 1931. It describes his almost 20 years as a backbencher and a minister and his career as managing director of the Catholic Church Property Insurance Co. It also provides an insight into his decision to oppose conscription in 1916 and explains the circumstances of his dramatic expulsion from parliament in 1920.