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Lamaro, Joseph (1895–1951)

by W. G. McMinn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Joseph Lamaro (1895-1951), by unknown photographer

Joseph Lamaro (1895-1951), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 23276

Joseph Lamaro (1895-1951), politician and judge, was born on 27 July 1895 at Redfern, Sydney, son of Sicilian parents Dieco Lamaro, fruiterer, and his wife Maria Giuseppa, née Taranto. After attending St Patrick's College, Goulburn, on a scholarship, he worked from 1912 as a clerk in the Department of Public Instruction while attending evening classes at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1915). Although rejected because of defective eyesight when he first tried to join the Australian Imperial Force, he was accepted in January 1916; as a signaller in the 18th Battalion he saw action in Belgium and France at Ypres and on the Somme before being discharged through illness at the end of 1917. Returning to the department and his university studies, he graduated LL.B. in 1922 and was admitted to the Bar on 1 June. In the 1925 Federal elections he stood unsuccessfully for Labor against W. M. Hughes for North Sydney.

Elected to the Legislative Assembly for Enmore in 1927, Lamaro was a staunch supporter of J. T. Lang, and took part in attempts to obstruct the Bavin government. When Lang took office in October 1930, Lamaro became minister of justice, transferring to the office of attorney-general nine months later. Liberal in his views, he drew some press criticism for releasing a number of life-prisoners who had served over twenty years of their sentences, in particular the notorious Eugenia Fallini. More serious was indiscreet criticism of the judiciary after the High Court's decision on the validity of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act of 1932, which led to protests from the Incorporated Law Institute of New South Wales and seriously damaged his later prospects at the Bar.

Although defeated in May 1932, Lamaro won Leichhardt at a by-election in December, but resigned to contest the Federal seat of Watson in August 1934. When he lost, he found himself prevented, perhaps through a misunderstanding or perhaps as a result of internal party manoeuvres, from obtaining the 'Lang Labor' nomination for his former constituency.

In October Lamaro had his name removed from the roll of barristers and practised as a solicitor, in partnership with Abram Landa, until 21 November 1941, when he was readmitted to the Bar. In 1943 he became crown prosecutor for the Western district and in 1947, after four months as an acting judge, was appointed to the District Court bench. He became, in October 1949, the object of some press hysteria because he took the sensible view that the ameliorative provisions of the Crimes Act regarding first offenders could reasonably be applied to persons charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. The attorney-general C. E. Martin accused him of trying to 'annul' the law against drink-driving, and he was transferred to the South-Western circuit. In poor health since undergoing emergency abdominal surgery in September 1944, he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage while sitting at Hay and died on 22 May 1951; he was buried in Botany cemetery with Roman Catholic rites. He was unmarried.

Bespectacled and 'shortish and thickset in build', Lamaro had been a competent footballer in his youth, and was for several years chairman of the Australian Rugby League Board of Control. Cheerful and sociable by nature, he could nevertheless be stubborn, and even passionate, in defence of his convictions.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. E. Holt, A Court Rises (Syd, 1976)
  • Australian Worker, 22 Oct 1930
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Oct 1949, 23 May 1951.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

W. G. McMinn, 'Lamaro, Joseph (1895–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lamaro-joseph-7013/text12195, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 10 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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