Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Taylor, Stanley Cassin (1896–1982)

by Andrew Moore

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Stanley Cassin Taylor (1896-1982), public servant, barrister and judge, was born on 7 December 1896 at Rylstone, New South Wales, eldest of four children of New South Wales-born parents John Orchard (Jack) Taylor, farmer, and his wife Helen Russell, née Clarke. After the family moved to Sydney Stan was educated at Burwood Superior Public School. In November 1912 he joined the State Department of the Attorney-General and of Justice as a junior clerk.

With Taylor’s political leanings strongly influenced by his father and the works of labour activists such as Tom Mann and Henry Boote, aged 17 he joined the Australian Labor Party. An ardent anti-conscriptionist in 1916-17, as a public servant he was censured after declining to work as a scab during the 1917 strike. In 1925 Taylor unsuccessfully contested the State seat of Ryde for the ALP. Though expelled from the party for three years in 1927, he survived to become a Lang Labor insider. In 1934 he was a State Labor Party candidate for the Federal seat of North Sydney. He was admitted to the Bar on 25 May 1934; in June he left the public trustee’s office. In 1937 he stood for the ALP, again unsuccessfully, in the Federal seat of Martin.

Through (Sir) W. J. McKell, with whom he shared chambers as an industrial lawyer, Taylor was increasingly well connected in Labor circles, as was his brother, W. C. ‘Fighting Billy’ Taylor, a confidant and personal adviser of J. B. Chifley. Stan married Gwendoline Heather Cansdell, a shorthand writer, on 16 June 1934 at St Matthew’s Church of England, Windsor.

Patronage and cronyism, as well as talent and ideological commitment, helped to shape Taylor’s career. In 1942 the Curtin Labor government appointed him as a deputy-director of the wartime Commonwealth security service, a position for which he had no experience or credentials and for which, lacking discretion, he was ill-suited. Later that year Premier McKell appointed him president of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales, though there were others more capable and better versed in industrial law.

As president of the Industrial Commission and holding a commensurate position as a Supreme Court judge, Taylor relied strongly on his ability to network and persuade key individuals, especially union leaders, to organise deals and ‘scratch backs’. His greatest achievement was to superintend relatively harmonious industrial relations at the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. There he had contacts throughout the workforce. His pragmatic style of conciliating disputes won him respect and he was retained as an independent arbitrator after his retirement from the Industrial Commission in 1966.

Taylor was a knockabout type with the common touch. Solidly built, with craggy features and a broken nose, in his youth he had reputedly trained with the boxer Les Darcy. Mr Justice Taylor would strip down to his underpants to engage in wrestling contests at lunchtime in his chambers. His informal demeanour included, People reported, a preference for employing the ‘sharp-edged slang of working Australia . . . He tells people to turn it up, wake up to themselves’.

Though Taylor was increasingly isolated among his colleagues in the Industrial Commission, it was not until 1955 that his career faltered. His relationship with Ray Fitzpatrick, a Bankstown contractor of dubious reputation and the proprietor of the Bankstown Observer, came to light in a series of allegations that cast him as ‘Mr Wig’ to Fitzpatrick’s ‘Mr Big’. It was alleged that Taylor had shielded Fitzpatrick from the consequences of his crimes; when questioned by Commonwealth police, Taylor purportedly replied, ‘I believe in helping a man if I can’. More than likely Taylor had leaked a security service document to Fitzpatrick concerning certain ‘immigration rackets’ in which Charles Morgan, Labor member for Reid in the House of Representatives, had allegedly been involved in 1939. This information was used by Fitzpatrick in a smear sheet in the 1946 elections to discredit Morgan and again in 1955 in the Bankstown Observer article that resulted in his and journalist Frank Browne’s imprisonment for contempt of parliament.

Taylor’s problems were compounded when he appeared before the royal commission on espionage on 28 January 1955. The documents that the Soviet defector Vladimir Petrov presented to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in 1953 contained information suggesting that, in his former career as a deputy-director of security, Taylor had handed to the Communist Party of Australia a document that compromised the identity of a covert agent. Walter Seddon Clayton, the party’s link to the Comintern, had reported positively about Taylor to Moscow. Neither the royal commissioners nor ASIO’s solicitor, (Sir) Victor Windeyer, who treated Taylor with ‘kid gloves’, uncovered any sinister intent in his actions. Other ASIO inquiries suggested that Taylor used his position improperly to help left-wing friends overcome minor brushes with the law.

After the royal commission Taylor and his wife were ostracised. He compensated by throwing himself into sorting out ‘bother’—his term for industrial friction—in the far reaches of the State, where his capacity for effective conciliation based on round-table discussions and on-site investigations was greatly admired, especially in Broken Hill. In retirement he remained outspoken on industrial relations issues. After Gwendoline died in 1970, Taylor moved to Bundarra, living in its pub and working as a yardman. When his health began to fail he returned to Sydney, settling at Mosman, where he died on 9 August 1982. In a formal tribute friends and colleagues recalled him as ‘an unusual man with great personal gifts’ and ‘a deep and passionately held appreciation of the Australian working man’. Survived by his two daughters, he was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Report of the Royal Commission on Espionage (1955)
  • S. McHugh, The Snowy (1989)
  • D. McKnight, Australia’s Spies and Their Secrets (1994)
  • A. Moore, ‘Stanley Cassin Taylor 1942-1966’, in G. Patmore (ed), Laying The Foundations of Industrial Justice (2003)
  • Australian Worker, 13 May 1925, p 15
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Dec 1942, p 2
  • People (Sydney), 18 June 1952, p 5
  • Australian, 15 Nov 1966, p 7
  • A6119, item 1540, M1505, item 456, M1507, item 33 (National Archives of Australia)
  • ‘Memoirs of S. Taylor’, McHugh papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Andrew Moore, 'Taylor, Stanley Cassin (1896–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-stanley-cassin-15680/text26879, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 22 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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