The mouth from the South talking elsewhere now

130712 Michael Hodgman

One of the most colourful characters in Federal politics – staunch Australian and Catholic – has died in Tasmania. The Mercury carried this obituary.

(William) Michael Hodgman, QC, AM (16 November 1938 – 19 June 2013), the man who was a central and influential figure in Tasmanian politics and law for decades, and among the state's most recognised and treasured identities, has died at 74.

A passionate fighter for political causes as diverse as the monarchist movement, Tasmanian State rights and independence for East Timor -- and in court a tenacious advocate for anyone from murderers and career criminals to down-at-heel battlers -- he died after a 14-year struggle with emphysema and more recently Alzheimer's disease. It was at the March, 2010, state election that he retired from politics, which had been his life passion and raison d'etre.

It had been an agonising decision to step back from public life, taken partly because of his worsening health and partly to allow his son, Will Hodgman, to put his personal stamp on his position as Leader of the Liberal Opposition without the spectre of his MP father continually looking over his shoulder.

Born on November 16, 1938, he followed his father the late Bill (William Clark) Hodgman, QC, into both the law and politics. He was raised a Catholic, in the tradition of his mother, the late Patricia (nee Walch), but attended The Hutchins School, an Anglican institution where, like his father before him, he became a prefect.

After studying law at the University of Tasmania, he was associate to then High Court judge Sir Victor Windeyer and then worked for a year as a legal officer with the old Hydro Electric Commission before entering private practice as a criminal barrister.

He made a tentative attempt to follow the family tradition of entering politics, standing in 1966 as an independent candidate for the Legislative Council seat of Huon which had been held firmly since 1948 by the highly-regarded Ron Brown. Surprisingly everyone, including himself, Michael Hodgman won the seat, ending the popular Mr Brown's 18-year term. He was only 27 years old and the youngest member ever elected to the Upper House in an era when restricted franchise prohibited anyone under 25 from even standing.

His politics were innately conservative but he was a paradox -- he developed a passionately small "L" liberal edge on many social and community issues. Virtually alone in the Tasmanian political elite, he stood strongly against the flooding of Lake Pedder. He strongly supported the abolition of capital punishment -- even though support for hanging was running at probably something like 70 per cent in his conservative rural electorate. He championed compulsory fluoridation of water supplies, even though the widespread belief in the Huon Valley was that fluoride would poison the population. And he supported daylight saving even though most of his orchardist constituents were opposed.

Nonetheless, he became so popular in the Huon that by 1972, when his first term was up, no one stood against him and he was re-elected unopposed. In the 1975 double-dissolution which ended the Whitlam Government, he was elected to represent Denison in Canberra -- a feat he repeated in 1977, 1980, 1983 and 1984. He was defeated only after the 1987 boundary changes made the seat safe Labor territory.

For a time he returned to the law, but the call of politics was too strong and in 1992 he won a Denison seat in the House of Assembly and was re-elected four years later. In 1998, he was one of the casualties of the reduction in the size of State Parliament. After a few years in the political wilderness and back at the bar, he made yet another comeback, elected on a recount to fill a casual vacancy in 2001. He remained a popular Member until his retirement in 2010….

Full obituary in The Mercury: http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2013/06/19/381784_tasmania-news.html..

Also in The Mercury: http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2013/06/19/381778_todays-news.html

Obituary in The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/national/exit-the-laughing-cavalier-20100312-q48x.html?skin=text-only

Wikipedia on Michael Hodgman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hodgman

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