Senate debates

Monday, 24 June 2013


Hodgman, Hon. William Michael, AM, QC

4:09 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to extend my condolence to the family of Michael Hodgman and to make just a few remarks. I only knew Michael in a parliamentary capacity when he returned to the Tasmanian House of Assembly having finished his career in the legislative council, then in the federal parliament.

I agree with Senator Brandis saying that he was like a person of another age. In many ways, that is the case. He never could come to terms with women's rights, he could never come to terms with gay rights, and he struggled with many of the conservation issues of the day. I have to say that, in terms of the campaign for gay law reform in Tasmania, he was one of the people who were staunchly opposed to it.

His oratory at the time I will never forget because, in the Parliament of Tasmania, when I was speaking for decriminalisation of homosexuality—at that time you could be jailed for 21 years in Tasmania for being homosexual—Michael Hodgman got up and called me 'the mother of teenage sodomy'. Michael did it with great rhetorical flourish and it ended up on the five to eight news the following day.

Michael was quite capable of using such flourishes and did so on many occasions, which of course had earned him the reputation as the 'mouth from the south' when he had been in the federal parliament. But the remarks that Senator Abetz made earlier, in relation to a march on Anzac Day, go to similar sorts of remarks.

Having said that, he was quite a colourful character in the Tasmanian parliament. He had a number of uniforms behind the door in his office. One was a boxing referee's uniform; another was his naval uniform. Sometimes he would come into the parliament on the adjournment, obviously going to another function somewhere—he was well known for attending as many functions as he could in one day—wearing his naval uniform or the boxing referee uniform, which was of considerable amusement to colleagues in the parliament.

One of his greatest disappointments, while I was in the Tasmanian parliament, was that he expected to be the Speaker in the Liberal government in the mid-1990s. He had sent away for the full wig. This is in the context of saying that he was of a bygone era—he saw himself in the chair, not with just a small wig but with the whole wig. That was what Michael was expecting. Actually, the Liberal Party betrayed him at that time and he did not become Speaker. I think that was probably one of his great disappointments during that period in parliament.

He had in his office a framed photograph of Her Majesty the Queen and a framed photograph of the Pope. On many occasions he would refer to either or both in terms of the context of whatever speech he was making. Towards his later years he would resort to stories about Norton the cat. If any of you have heard Michael on that subject, you would know that Norton became a major focus of some of his speeches in the latter days.

But I have to say that he was also working at representing people in the courts while he was in the parliament in later years. One of his most famous actions in recent times was to become Chopper Read's best man. When Chopper Read was married, in the Tasmanian parliament Michael was his best man, and it is reputed that he told Chopper Read that getting married was one of the best ways to earn his release from Risdon Prison. I do not know if that is the case; that is reputed to be what Michael's advice to Chopper Read was at that time.

However, I knew him not only as a parliamentarian but also, as has been referred to, as a gentleman jockey. He had made many friends in the Tasmanian racing community and also in the riding community generally. One of his great friends, Geoff Cox, had a property, Springbanks, at Longford

Michael was a very great friend to Geoff in the years that Geoff's health was deteriorating. After Geoff's death, Michael also was very supportive of his widow, Alison, and I saw in those years the kind of loyalty and friendship that Michael had with the people with whom he had enjoyed many recreational pursuits as well as had strong philosophical differences. Geoff Cox had become a Green, much to Michael's horror, and so Geoff used to write on the gate, when Michael was coming to visit, 'Milne' on one side and 'Brown' on the other; that would inspire Michael and Geoff to quite a degree of debate. But I have to acknowledge that the other side of Michael I saw in that period was the tremendous respect and effort he put into maintaining friendships and supporting the people who had supported and worked with him.

In addition to the uniforms he had behind the door—and people have referred to his love of the monarchy and, of course, the flag—he had a flag tie that he used to wear on significant occasions when it was warranted. He was a man of a different era in terms of many of the causes which he espoused. He was one for great flourish in terms of rhetoric. In spite of the insults which he dished out on regular occasions to his political opponents, he was funny and he was fair on most occasions. Whilst he was extremely critical and insulting, it was not of the nasty and rude variety. There was always some sort of flourish or laugh associated with the kinds of engagement that he entered into in the parliament.

I was sorry to see the deterioration in his health in recent times as he struggled with emphysema. I met him around Hobart on various occasions. He always met people with a smile and a joke. That is the thing that I will remember most about Michael—that he was a man who acknowledged everybody in the same way, and treated people equally, when he saw them in the street. He always had time to say hello, pass the time of day and smile, and he was proud to be a Tasmanian. He always spoke strongly about our state and the people in it. There is no doubt that he stayed alive as long as he did, as has been said, because he was hoping to be alive for next year's state election. That has not occurred; nevertheless, I am sure people will remember him in that context next year.


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