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Monday, 24 June 2013
Page: 6836


Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (17:08): I listened to the member for Berowra's very generous and warm remarks in this condolence motion on the death of Michael Hodgman. I will not delay the House for as long as Michael Hodgman perhaps would normally warrant because so many others who knew him very well have spoken so warmly about him.

I got to know Michael Hodgman in two capacities initially: firstly, as the brother of a friend and constituent, John Hodgman, his elder brother who predeceased him—an equally colourful gentleman in the Hodgman mould; and, secondly, during the debate about the republic as Michael was an enthusiastic and ebullient champion of the monarchy. We disagreed thoroughly and debated each other frequently, but I have to record that, unlike many participants in public debate, including the republic debate, Michael was always good-humoured: most of the time he had his tongue in his cheek, he certainly never took himself seriously and he regarded the debate as something to be enjoyed.

I think this is what has caused so many people from across the political spectrum to love him over the years—or perhaps be frustrated by him and enraged by him too—and also recognise that he was essentially a man of enormous warmth, humanity and good humour. He had none of that sullen dourness, that tedious intensity, that you see so often in public debate. He never had any of that thin-lipped meanness or that gimlet glare that you get from people who become obsessed with causes to the point of starting to hate the people who are making the contrary case. In some respects Michael Hodgman had this approach not simply because he was in many respects an 18th century personality, who enjoyed drinking—

Mr Frydenberg: Not even 19th?

Mr TURNBULL: No, he was definitely 18th century. I correct the member for Kooyong—definitely 18th century; perhaps very early 19th century. The early 19th century was of course Tasmania's heyday, so that would have been appropriate. That was when Tasmania was the wealthiest part of the English-speaking world—in the early 1800s. I return to the 21st century, the late 20th century and Michael Hodgman. Hodgman enjoyed life to the full. He knew that he smoked too much, drank too much, ate too much and went to the races too much. He knew all of that, but he lived life to the full recognising the risks that he ran.

Michael simply loved the thrill of an argument. He brought to the political sphere the good humour of the professional advocate in the sense that he recognised that every case—be it in the courts, in the public domain, in the parliament or out in the media—had to be argued. While he would describe his opponents sometimes in the most extravagant terms, he never did so, in my experience at least, with any malice and certainly without any tinge of personal animosity. He was, in that sense, a thoroughly good-humoured opponent.

Another gentleman who was a great stalwart of the monarchist cause in that time and very similar to Michael Hodgman in this respect was Lloyd Waddy, who was the chairman of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. Lloyd Waddy, like Michael, was always good company. We disagreed often. Waddy, who was a natural friend of Hodgman's, and I were once attending a dinner debate about the monarchy and, after surveying the audience, we concluded that they had all had an excess of refreshments and were not in a position to appreciate an argument about the fine niceties of constitutional law. So, I said to Lloyd, 'You give the speech for the republic and I'll give the one for the monarchy,' which we duly did. The good thing for both of our reputations is that nobody can remember precisely what was said, but they all seemed to enjoy it. Hodgman was that sort of advocate and public figure.

We all miss Michael dearly. We remember him as a big, larger-than-life colourful figure and somebody that is, in some respects, an example to us in that he was not filled with personal animosity—that meanness of which I spoke a little while ago. There is too much of that in public life; there is not enough good humour. He has, of course, a large family who mourn his passing—in particular his son Will, who was his great pride and joy. He even forgave Will his republicanism, which may have been the reason why Michael and I became such frequent correspondents whether in writing or on the telephone in subsequent years. He saw in Will, in a sense, somebody that could fulfil the ambition of being a head of government—a Premier in Will's case of course. Who knows what greatness awaits Will Hodgman in the years ahead—he is a young man of course. But he saw in Will the prospect for great achievement.

He was inordinately proud of his son. They sometimes argued. Of course, they were in the parliament together. At one point, Will had to drop him from the frontbench—which must have made for an interesting discussion! But Will will miss him perhaps more than anyone. The essentially civilised Hodgman gene, the good humour gene, is there in Michael's son Will. When Will becomes the Premier of Tasmania, as he deserves to be—and that state certainly needs a change of government—there will be a more measured version of Michael. Will is not quite as colourful as Michael. Nonetheless, he has that same big heart, that same enormous love for the state of Tasmania, and a good humour that should be the mark of all of our discourse in public life.