Senate debates

Monday, 24 June 2013


Hodgman, Hon. William Michael, AM, QC

4:17 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to make my contribution in tribute to the life of Michael Hodgman AM QC—Michael, to most people. Senator Abetz chose an adjective to describe Michael. I have to say I really struggled because I am not sure that there is anything quite bold enough to do the job. He will be described in many ways for his colourful life, but he was, as Senator Milne just said, one of those people who always had a warm and hearty greeting for you. You always got the impression that he was pleased to see you, whether he was or not, even on the telephone.

I recall, when I was state president of the Tasmanian Liberal Party, being instructed by the state executive to have a conversation with Michael about how long he might remain in the Tasmanian parliament. There was some discussion about the fact that we might start a process of renewal. So good is the Tasmanian Liberal Party—like most others—at holding secrets that, when I rang Michael, I found that Michael knew I was coming. It is fair to say the conversation did not go well from my perspective. He was ready for me. He had every turn of phrase that he might have needed at hand, ready to run me with. Let's say it was fruitless. But the next time I met Michael he quickly discussed the conversation, and then we moved on. Michael had his reasons for doing what he wanted to do, and I have to say that, at the end of the day, those reasons proved to be sound and correct, and he achieved his objective. He finally decided to call it quits himself on his career in 2010.

The fact that he spent 44 years of his life in public service demonstrates how proud he was of the roles that he undertook—in the Tasmanian upper house; in the federal parliament, in the House of Representatives; and in the Tasmanian lower house—and the fact that he saw public service as a positive duty, as a responsibility. He engaged with everybody in that context, as has been said here in the chamber. Whether in the front bar at the pub, in the RSL club, in the boxing ring as a referee, or here in the parliament, he always knew his place and his part and played that to the full. He was passionate about all of those roles.

He loved his family. A mention of his grandchildren would see him dive into his jacket pocket and pull out a wad of photographs to proudly display to you the progress of all the grandchildren. He was immensely proud of his son, Will, who, as we have discussed here today, is the leader of the opposition in Tasmania. I know that one of the things he would have liked to do was to see Will become Premier of Tasmania. I hope that that comes to pass in March next year. But I know he would have absolutely loved to have been able to hang out long enough to see that occur.

Within the Liberal Party organisation, he was also a really strong advocate for branches and the roles of branches. I recall, at the end of one of our three-day state councils one year, the time was one minute to 12. Everybody in the room looked as though they were ready to go home, because the council was to finish at 12 o'clock. So, as chair, I made the decision that we would not go onto the next motion. From recollection, it was about whether the Tasmanian native bird emblem should be changed. Michael was so affronted that one of the local branches which had taken the time to put a motion up to state council should lose their opportunity to have that motion debated, regardless of what it was, he roared into life. He said he did not care what kind of bird it was. He gave a very graphic example of a bird, which I will not give here today—but I could perhaps talk to people about it in private—because I do not think it appropriate to describe it in this context. You would not get away with it today. Needless to say, I surrendered. The council went on to debate whether or not the native bird emblem of Tasmania would be changed, and duly decided it would not, but the branch had had its opportunity to have its say, and that is what was important to Michael.

He was a fierce and fearful opponent, but at the end of the day he would come and have a beer with you. To see and hear of him passing of emphysema is a really tragic end to a vital, full and colourful life. My grandfather succumbed to the same disease and it is a cruel way to die. The fact that the dreaded smokes got Michael in the end is a real tragedy for all of us.

I want to make mention, and I have to a certain extent, of his passions. He loved his family, and I have said that, but he also loved his community. Senator Abetz talked about it. It was about the people. It did not matter who you were or where you were, his representation of people—legally, on a pro bono basis—is something that most people, who know Michael, know of. He loved his state. Reading through the notes that were prepared by the Parliamentary Library he talked about one thing that Tasmanians hated: people in Canberra making decisions about what should happen in Tasmania. I know that he felt that very strongly.

He also loved his country and was a strong believer in federalism. He loved his Queen. As Senator Brandis mentioned earlier, I am not sure I know anybody who could make an opposition position sound more important than the job in government. Her Majesty's loyal shadow Attorney-General was how he described himself, with great colour and flourish, and it sounded as though he was more important than the Attorney-General of the state of Tasmania. I am sure that is one of the things that irritated the Attorney in the battles they had across the chamber. And he loved the flag. We have heard the discussion about his passion for the flag and the ties that he wore in relation to that.

There was once a debate about replacing the lion on the Tasmanian flag with a Cape Barren goose. That suggestion was made by one of his Tasmanian parliamentary Liberal colleagues, the hard-working member for Lyons, Bob Mainwaring. Yes, the introduction takes us back. There was a fierce debate over that—the lion remains but Michael was affronted that somebody could suggest taking the lion off the Tasmanian flag in the first place, let alone replacing it with a Cape Barren goose.

It is appropriate that we celebrate Michael's life. He was a great pleasure to know. He was a great source of pride for his family and, as Senator Abetz said, he was known widely and broadly. I would like to join with others in expressing my sincere condolences to Lindy, his wife, and to Will and other members of the family. I just hope that Will does do what Michael hoped he would do—reach the premiership of Tasmania. But my sincere condolences to all of the Hodgman family. They have lost a great contributor to the Tasmanian community but also a great family member.


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