Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Statements by Senators

Tasmania: Hodgman Family

1:20 pm

Photo of Wendy AskewWendy Askew (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Recently I spoke about Tasmania's first power couple, Joe and Dame Enid Lyons. Today I want to acknowledge another Tasmanian family who have also contributed an enormous amount to our political history, the Hodgman family. Initially I'll focus on the two most prominent members of that, both political leaders in their own right who made significant contributions to my own state. At one time, not that long ago, Michael and Will Hodgman served together in the Tasmanian state parliament; however, this father-son duo will be remembered mostly as champions of Tasmania.

Noted as 'one of the most colourful figures in modern Australian politics' by former prime minister Julia Gillard and as 'one of the greatest characters in Australian politics' by Senator David Bushby, Michael Hodgman left a lasting legacy. He was a passionate advocate for Tasmania at a state and federal level and a vocal supporter of Australia's constitutional monarchy. In 2018, Will Hodgman received the highest number of votes for any candidate in a Tasmanian state election. I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with Will over many years and have always valued his counsel and support. He was a longstanding member of the Tasmanian parliament, and the state grew in national and international standing under his stewardship.

William Michael Hodgman AM, QC was born in Hobart in 1938. He enjoyed a successful legal career before moving into politics. He graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Tasmania in 1962, serving as Vice-President of the Tasmania University Law Society and editor of the university newspaper, Togatus, whilst studying in Hobart. Michael was admitted to the Supreme Court of Tasmania and served as an associate to the Rt Hon. Sir Victor Windeyer of the High Court of Australia from 1962 to 1963. He worked as a legal officer for Hydro Tasmania in 1965 and 1966 and served as a committee member of the Tasmanian Bar Council between 1964 and 1974. Michael was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1984. One aspect of life outside politics that he'll be remembered most for was his high-profile clientele, including the infamous Mark 'Chopper' Read.

Michael's introduction to politics came in 1966, when he won the seat of Huon as an independent member of Tasmania's Legislative Council. He held this position until December 1975, when he was elected to the federal parliament. As the federal MP for Denison between 1975 and July 1987, Michael served as the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry and Commerce. After losing his federal seat at the 1987 election, Michael re-entered the Tasmanian parliament in 1992, becoming the member for Denison in the House of Assembly. He held this seat until 1998 and then again between 2002 and 2010, which is when his political service coincided with his son Will's. In fact, Michael was in the party room when Will was elected unopposed as the new Liberal leader in 2006.

By the time Michael retired from politics, in 2010, he had spent 44 years serving Tasmanians and Australians, with 35 years of those years in parliament. My brother, former Senator Bushby, paid tribute to this service in federal parliament, affectionately calling Michael 'the mouth from the south', a term commonly used to describe him. In his speech, David explained:

There is much that can be said of Michael—his time in public office; his passion for Tasmania, for Hobart, for regional Australia, for the law; his antics, his stunts, his legendary rhetoric; and his loyalty to our sovereign, Her Majesty the Queen of Australia.

After Michael's death in 2013, a state memorial service was held in Hobart. Julia Gillard paid tribute to Michael, placing parliament's appreciation for his long and meritorious public service on the record. She said all members would mourn his loss.

Will Hodgman followed in his father's footsteps in wanting to serve Tasmanians and Australians. Now Australia's High Commissioner to Singapore, Will was Tasmania's 45th Premier until he resigned in January last year. William Edward Felix 'Will' Hodgman was born in 1969 in Hobart and, like his father, was educated at The Hutchins School and attended the University of Tasmania. Will graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law in 1993 and was admitted to the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1994. Will was initially an associate of Hobart law firm Wallace Wilkinson & Webster, before travelling to the UK and working as a solicitor for the Wiltshire county council. In this role he acted as prosecutor and advocate for the council in the county courts and the High Court of Justice. Returning to Tasmania and his work at Wallace Wilkinson & Webster in 1998, Will practised criminal and personal injury law until he was elected to the Tasmanian parliament in 2002. He served as the member for Franklin in the House of Assembly until 2020.

Will took up the mantle of opposition leader in 2006 and became Tasmanian Premier following the 2014 state election. Winning 23,589 first-preference votes, which equated to 35 per cent of the vote, Will topped the poll in Franklin in 2014, despite competing against both the Labor Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader and now Senator Nick McKim. He became the fifth non-Labor Premier in 80 years and only the third Tasmanian Premier to govern in majority. Will Hodgman was re-elected to a second term in government following victory in the 2018 state election, succeeding Angus Bethune as Tasmania's longest-serving Liberal leader in the process. He received 27,184 first-preference votes, extending his support from 2014. After 18 years in the Tasmanian parliament Will resigned as Premier, the Tasmanian Liberals' Leader and an MP on 20 June 2020. During his time in parliament Will's portfolios included Attorney-General, justice, tourism, hospitality and events, trade, parks, heritage, Aboriginal affairs, arts, sport and recreation, prevention of family violence and advanced manufacturing and defence industries. In April 2020 Will was appointed as the inaugural chair to oversee the establishment and launch of the Australian Business Growth Fund before taking up his current diplomatic post late last year.

Michael and Will Hodgman make up two of the four generations of Hodgman family politicians. This family commitment to political service to Tasmanians and Australians started with Thomas Christopher Hodgman, who was a member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly between 1900 and 1912. Thomas was born in Kent and came to Tasmania with his parents as a young boy. He became a farmer at Tea Tree and was a well-known stock agent with Kemp, Roberts and Co for more than 30 years. Thomas was elected to the Tasmanian parliament in 1900 as the member for Brighton in the House of Assembly, transferring to the electoral district of Monmouth in 1903. When proportional representation was introduced in 1909, Thomas was elected as an anti-socialist member for Franklin, retiring in 1912 when his electoral district was abolished.

Thomas's brother Wilfred Hodgman was a lawyer with Page, Hodgman and Seager in Hobart. His son Bill, Michael's father and Will's grandfather, was the next Hodgman to enter the law and Tasmanian politics. William Clark 'Bill' Hodgman OBE, QC was born in Hobart in 1909 and attended The Hutchins School and University of Tasmania—a definite trend; he was the first of the three generations to do so. Bill worked in Melbourne before being admitted to the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1938. Working with Hobart law firm Crisp and Rice, Bill became a leading criminal barrister and was made a Queen's Counsel in 1957. Bill was elected to the Tasmanian parliament in 1955 as a Liberal member for Denison in the House of Assembly but became an Independent in 1960. He lost his seat in 1964 but was re-elected in 1971 as a member of the Legislative Council for Queenborough. Bill was President of the Legislative Council from June 1981 until his retirement from parliament in May 1983. Bill was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 for service to the community. He died in Hobart in 1997 and was given a state funeral. And, like Michael and Will were to do later, Bill served in the Tasmanian parliament at different times with two of his sons, Michael and Peter, during their political careers.

Peter Curtis Lee Hodgman was born in Hobart in 1946 and was elected to the Legislative Council in 1974 as an Independent member for Huon. In 1986 he resigned his seat and successfully contested the House of Assembly seat of Franklin as a Liberal Party member. Between 1986 and 1996 Peter held a number of ministerial portfolios in Robin Grey's Liberal government. These included construction, administrative services, environment, inland fisheries, women, sport and recreation, Antarctic affairs, and multicultural and ethnic affairs, where he was assisting the Premier. Peter resigned his state seat in October 2001.

As you can see, the Hodgman family—or perhaps I should say 'dynasty'—has made important contributions to both Tasmanian and Australian politics, with this influence continuing today through Will Hodgman's diplomatic efforts on behalf of Australia. We owe a debt of thanks to them for their service.