Kep Enderby

Keppel Earl "Kep" Enderby QC (25 June 1926 – 7 January 2015)[1] was an Australian politician and judge. Enderby was a member of the House of Representatives, representing the Australian Labor Party between 1970 and 1975 and became a senior cabinet minister in the Gough Whitlam government. After politics, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Kep Enderby

Member of the Australian Parliament
for Australian Capital Territory
In office
30 May 1970  18 May 1974
Preceded byJim Fraser
Succeeded byDivision abolished
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Canberra
In office
18 May 1974  13 December 1975
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded byJohn Haslem
Personal details
Born(1926-06-25)25 June 1926
Dubbo, New South Wales
Died7 January 2015(2015-01-07) (aged 88)
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
Alma materUniversity of Sydney

Early years

Enderby was born in Dubbo, New South Wales and educated at Dubbo High School. His parents were milk-bar proprietors.[2] He was a trainee pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1944 and 1945. He studied law at the University of Sydney from 1946 to 1950 and was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1950. From 1950 to 1954, he worked as a barrister in London and studied at the University of London. He also played golf in the British Amateur and Open championships in 1951 and 1952.[3]

He returned to New South Wales in 1955 and practiced law and lectured at Sydney Technical College. Enderby was active with Ken Buckley in the foundation of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties in the 1950s and 1960s.[4] In 1962, he became a lecturer in law at the Australian National University in Canberra. In 1966, he began practicing law in Canberra while continuing to teach part-time. He was appointed a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1973.[3]

Political career

In 1970, Enderby gained Australian Labor Party (ALP) pre-selection for the Division of Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives at a by-election following Jim Fraser's death in April 1970. As the Federal member for the ACT, Kep Enderby was involved in Parliamentary debate over the 1971 Canberra flood. Following Whitlam's victory at the 1972 election, Enderby was appointed as the first Minister for the Capital Territory and the first Minister for the Northern Territory in the December 1972 ministry, replacing the former portfolio of the Interior.[5] In October 1973, he lost these posts, partly because his ACT portfolio made him responsible for implementing policies that were unpopular in his electorate. Instead, he became Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply. Enderby became the last Minister for Supply—a portfolio which had been established at the beginning of World War II and included responsibility for government munitions factories—when Supply and Secondary Industry were merged into the Manufacturing Industry portfolio in the June 1974 ministry.[3] It was during this time that he made what has become his most famous utterance: "Traditionally, Australia obtains its imports from overseas."[6]

In February 1975, following Lionel Murphy's appointment to the High Court of Australia, Enderby became Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise. One of his first actions was to introduce a bill to decriminalize abortion and homosexuality in the Australian Capital Territory.[7] The Customs and Excise portfolio was renamed Police and Customs in March 1975, reflecting the government's decision to establish the Australia Police. The Police and Customs portfolio was reassigned to Jim Cavanagh in June 1975.[3]

Enderby was elected to the new seat of Canberra at the 1974 election, but was one of many Labor members to lose their seats in the landslide 1975 election defeat that followed the dismissal of the Whitlam Government .

After politics

Enderby moved to Sydney and returned to the bar, where he practised as a barrister. From 1982 until his retirement in 1992, he was the judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.[3] In 1997, he was appointed head of the Serious Offenders Review Council, during which time he said that up to 80 percent of the nation's prisoners should not be behind bars. In June 2000, the NSW Government decided not to re-appoint him when his term expired, but said the move was not related to his outspoken views.[8]

Enderby has held a number of community positions throughout his career, including presiding over the regional society for voluntary euthanasia. Additionally, after learning Esperanto in 1987, Enderby became involved in Esperanto organisations, including serving as President of the Australian Esperanto Association from 1992 to 1997,[3] as a committee member of the World Esperanto Association from 1992 to 2004, as President of the Esperanto Law Association from 1996 to 2002 and from 1998 to 2001 as President of the World Esperanto Association.


  1. "Senate debates: Condolences Enderby, Hon. Keppel Earl, QC". Open Australia. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  2. Easson, Michael (14 January 2015). "Former federal Attorney General Kep Enderby remembered among his peers". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 28 September 2016.
  3. "Kep Enderby". Biographies. NSW Council of Civil Liberties. Archived from the original on 24 March 2008. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  4. "Kep. Enderby QC". CJC Signatories. Community Justice Coalition. Archived from the original on 30 December 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  5. Juddery, Bruce (21 December 1972). "A zig-zag career leading to a post in the Cabinet". The Canberra Times. p. 2.
  6. National Archives of Australia Events and issue that made the news in 1974
  7. Fitzgerald, Ross; Carr, Adam James; Dealy, William J. (2003). The Pope's battalions: Santamaria, Catholicism and the Labor Split. University of Queensland Press. p. 228. ISBN 0-7022-3389-7.
  8. Canberra Times, 1 June 2000

In Esperanto

In English

Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph Hunt (Interior)
Minister for the Capital Territory
Succeeded by
Gordon Bryant
Minister for the Northern Territory
Succeeded by
Rex Patterson
Preceded by
Jim Cairns
Minister for Secondary Industry/
Minister for Manufacturing Industry

Succeeded by
Jim McClelland
Preceded by
Lance Barnard
Minister for Supply
Merged into
Manufacturing Industry
Preceded by
Lionel Murphy
Succeeded by
Ivor Greenwood
Minister for Customs and Excise/
Minister for Police and Customs

Succeeded by
Jim Cavanagh
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Jim Fraser
Member for Australian Capital Territory
New title Member for Canberra
Succeeded by
John Haslem
Universal Esperanto Association
Preceded by
Lee Chong-Yeong
Succeeded by
Renato Corsetti
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