Faculty of Law Alumni

University of Tasmania Graduates and State Parliament: Don Wing

The first graduate of the University of Tasmania destined to later serve as a member of the Parliament of Tasmania was Albert Edgar Solomon (BA 1895), eclipsing Herbert Nicholls for this honour by one year. Nevertheless, Nicholls, later to become Sir Herbert, was the first University of Tasmania law graduate to enter parliament, graduating in 1896, three years after the Faculty of Law was established. In 1900 Nicholls was elected to the House of Assembly as an Independent member, so becoming the first University of Tasmania graduate to be elected to the State Parliament. He was Leader of the Opposition from 1904 until he became a puisne judge in 1909. He served Tasmania as Chief Justice from 1914 until 1937. Nicholls was a strong supporter of the fledgling University, whose very existence was sometimes under attack in those early years. 

Solomon, described as having a precocious intellect, matriculated at the age of 13, gained a law degree in 1897 and an MA and LLM in 1903. He was elected to the House of Assembly in 1908. He became Premier in 1912 aged 36, being the youngest to do so at that time. As Minister for Education he presided over the establishment of the Phillip Smith College and the first State High Schools. In April 1914 his party lost office and he died in October of that year, aged 38. 

These pioneering gentlemen began what has become an increasingly regular practise of many University of Tasmania graduates, especially in law, serving as elected members of the Tasmanian Parliament. Many have become Premiers, Leaders of the Opposition, Ministers and Presiding Officers. Regrettably, limitations of space will not permit detailed coverage of them all in this article and Greens members are not included as there is a separate story from Senator The Hon Christine Milne. 

Tasman Shields (later KC) graduated LLB from the University of Tasmania in 1906, having previously been admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1894. He had a thriving legal practice in Launceston as a barrister and was an Independent member of the Legislative Council from 1915 until 1936.

F B Edwards graduated in law in 1909. An Ulverstone legal practitioner, he was the first University of Tasmania graduate to serve in more than one House of Parliament. Elected to the Legislative Council in 1921, he was an Independent member for Russell until 1933. He later became a Nationalist Party member for Darwin (now Braddon) in the House of Assembly from 1934 until 1946.

After gallant military service earning him the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Award, H S Baker (later Sir Henry) gained his LLB in 1913 and LLM in 1915. He was elected to the House of Assembly in 1928 as a Nationalist Party member for Franklin, immediately becoming Attorney-General and Minister for Education. He was Leader of the Opposition between 1936 and 1946 and then moved to the Legislative Council in 1948 to become the Independent member for Queenborough. He remained there until his death in 1968. Sir Henry was President of the Council for the last nine years of his life. He was a long-serving member of the University Council (1928-34 and 1940-63) and was Chancellor from 1956 until 1963.

Albert George Ogilvie (later KC) was born in March 1890 in the Victoria Tavern in Murray Street, where his father was the licensee. This establishment later became well known to many articled law clerks, in particular! Having graduated in law in 1914, Ogilvie was elected to the House of Assembly in 1919 as an ALP member for Franklin. He joined the Cabinet of Joseph A Lyons in 1923 as Attorney-General and Minister for Education; resigning in protest in 1927. When Lyons resigned and moved to the Federal Parliament in 1929, Ogilvie replaced him as Leader of the Opposition, contrary to the wishes of Joseph Lyons. Ogilvie was Premier of Tasmania from 1934 until his untimely death in 1939.

Reginald Charles Wright (later Sir Reginald) burst into the political arena with his election to the House of Assembly in 1946 as a Liberal member for Franklin. He graduated LLB in 1927 and BA in 1928. He was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1928 and while practising law, lectured part-time in law at the University. He enlisted in the 1st AIF in 1941 rising to the rank of Captain. After serving for three years in the State Parliament he resigned and was elected to the Senate where he served with distinction from 1950 until 1978.

William Charles Hodgman (later QC) graduated LLB in 1938. In 1955 he began a nine year period as a Member for Denison – initially as a Liberal member but resigning from the Party and becoming Independent towards the end of his term. In 1971 he was elected as an Independent member for Queenborough in the Legislative Council. Serving two six year terms he retired in 1983, becoming President of the Council in his last two years. 

By his election to the Parliament he made a significant contribution to the emerging Hodgman Political Dynasty. This began when his uncle, Thomas Hodgman, served as a member of the House of Assembly between 1900 and 1912. It gained momentum and has been secured by the election of WC Hodgman's two sons, Michael and Peter, and his grandson, Will. By defeating long serving sitting member Ronald Brown (BCom - 1947), William Michael Hodgman LLB 1962 (later QC) was elected in May 1966 as the Independent member for Huon in the Legislative Council, aged 27. He resigned in May 1974 to contest unsuccessfully the Federal seat of Denison, a seat which he won in the December 1975 Federal Election. He served twelve years in the Federal Parliament until an unfavourable redistribution of electoral boundaries contributed to his defeat in 1987. He then served for a total of eight years in the House of Assembly on two separate occasions. Peter C L Hodgman was elected to the Legislative Council in 1974 as the Independent member for Huon to fill the vacancy created by his brother Michael's resignation. He resigned in 1986 to successfully contest the State Election becoming a Liberal member for Franklin in the House of Assembly from 1986 until 2001, serving many years as a Minister.

William Edward Felix (Will) Hodgman BA, LLB (1993) son of Michael Hodgman QC is the most recent member of the Hodgman Dynasty and was elected as a Liberal member for Franklin in the House of Assembly in 2002. He was Leader of the Opposition from 2006 until the 2014 State Election when he retained his seat with a massive personal vote and became Premier when, under his leadership, the Liberal Party was swept into power with a substantial majority.

The 1964 State Election saw three University of Tasmania graduates elected as members for Denison in the House of Assembly. They were Mervyn G Everett BA (1942) LLB (1947) (later Q.C.) Labor; Robert Mather BCom, and Dr Nigel Abbott MB BS LLB both Liberal. Everett immediately became Minister for Health, serving in that capacity until the Labor Party lost the 1969 Election. Upon the Party regaining power in 1972, he became Deputy Premier and Attorney-General until he entered the Senate in 1974 until 1975. He later served on the bench of both the Supreme Court of Tasmania and the Federal Court. He assisted as a part-time lecturer in the Law Faculty and the University of Tasmania granted him a posthumous award of Doctor of Philosophy for his research in the Nuremberg War Lists.

Two high profile Tasmanian Rhodes Scholars were elected at that 1969 Election as Liberal members for Denison. They were former Law professor Robert (Bob) Wilfred Baker, LLB (Hons) BCL (Tasmania), B Litt (Oxf), and a former student of his, Eardley Max (later Sir Max) Bingham LLB (Hons) (Tasmania), QC, BCL (Oxf).

Baker had trained many of the lawyers who went on to become parliamentarians and he followed them as a Member of Parliament. His expertise was used in chairing a number of Parliamentary and Planning Committees and in the detailed consideration of legislation. He served as a member of the House of Assembly until 1980.

Bingham served in a number of portfolios in the Bethune Government (1969 -1972) including Attorney-General and was Leader of the Opposition from 1972 until 1979. With the election of the Gray Government in 1982, he was Deputy Premier and his portfolios included Attorney-General and Education. He was innovative and progressive. He was the first Minister in Australia to present legislation for the creation of the Office of Ombudsman and he initiated the much applauded Community Service Orders system as an alternative to prison in appropriate cases. This scheme has been adopted extensively interstate and overseas. He resigned from Parliament in 1984, subsequently joining the National Crime Authority. He was knighted in 1988 and in 1989 he became the Founding Commissioner of the Queensland Justice Commission. An active supporter of the University he was a recipient of the University of Tasmania Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Whitlam Dismissal on 11 November 1975 was probably a motivating factor, which led most, if not all, four young ALP members to stand and be elected to the House of Assembly at the State Election held on 11 December 1976. They were: Julian Amos PhD (Denison), Terry Aulich BA (Lyons), Michael Field BA and Greg Peart BA B.Ed DipE (both Braddon). Peart served only one term and the other three all became Ministers. Amos served for a total of thirteen years during two periods: first from 1976 until 1986 and the second 1992 until 1996. Aulich lost his seat in Lyons at the 1982 State Election and was elected to the Senate in 1984. He remained there until 1993. 

Robert Graham BA (Hons) DipUrbPlanning, served for two periods as a Labor member for Denison – the first from 8 September 1980 until 15 May 1982 when he was elected on a recount following the resignation of Neil Batt. The second was by recount on 12 July 1984 following John Devine's resignation. He served in a number of portfolios until 8 February 1986.

Gabriel George Haros LLB was elected in 1980 as a Liberal member for Denison in the House of Assembly. He was not endorsed by the Liberal Party for the State Election in 1986; he stood as an Independent and was defeated.

Peter Benson Walker LLB (Hons) served one term in the House of Assembly as a Liberal Party member for Denison in the House of Assembly from May 1982 to February 1986.

Also in May 1982 Don Wing LLB (1962) was elected as an Independent member for Launceston in the Legislative Council. Retiring in 2011, he was President of the Upper House from 2002 until 2008.

Peter G Patmore LLB DipCrim, PhD (Political Science) (2000) was elected to the House of Assembly as Labor Party member for Bass in 1984. He served as Deputy Premier and held several portfolios, notably Attorney-General and Education, until he resigned from Parliament in 2002. In 2000 he gained a PhD in Political Science and has been a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Tasmania since 2010.

The re-election of the Gray Government in 1986 saw it strengthened by the election, as Liberal members of the House of Assembly, of three high profile University graduates. They were: John M Bennett LLB (Denison), Nicholas CK (Nick) Evers BA (Hons) (Franklin) and Peter E Rae BA (Hons) LLB (Bass). They all became Ministers immediately and each served in a number of significant portfolios until the defeat of the Gray Government in 1989.

Rae had recently resigned as a Senator, having spent seventeen productive years in the Senate. He became Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Commission (1993 - 2004) and continues to play a leading role internationally in Renewable Energy organisations and conferences.

Michael Field was Premier from 1989 until 1992 in a Labor-Green Party Accord. He was one of that rare breed of political leaders prepared to make unpopular, but correct and necessary, decisions notwithstanding the inevitability of that leading to the defeat of his government. In 2000, the University of Tasmania conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate of Laws for service to the State and the University. In the 2003 Queen's Birthday Honours he was awarded a Companion of Honour for service to Parliament. In 2012 Michael Field AC was appointed Chancellor of the University of Tasmania.

The State Election on 20 March 2010 resulted in an influx of six University of Tasmania graduates as members of the House of Assembly. They were Elise Archer LLB and Matthew Groom BA LLB (Tasmania), LLM (Melbourne) both Liberal, Denison; Michael Ferguson BEd BAppSc TTC Liberal and Brian Wightman BEd MEd Labor, both Bass; Jacqueline Petrusma BCom Liberal, Franklin and Rebecca White BA, BCom Labor, Lyons. 

All except Wightman were re-elected at the 2014 State Election. He served as Attorney-General and Minister for Education in a previous Labor Government. Michael Ferguson, now Minister for Health, was a school teacher and served as Liberal member for Bass in the Federal Parliament between 2004 and 2007. Rebecca White served briefly as Minister for Human Services towards the end of the Giddings Government. Jacqueline Petrusma had experience as a registered nurse and is now Minister for Human Services and Women. At the 2014 State Election, Guy Barnett BA (1984) MA (1995) Bass and Madeline Ogilvie, Labor Denison, were elected to the House of Assembly.

Guy Barnett was a Liberal Senator from 2002 until 2011, and previously had a consultancy practice. Madeline worked as a lawyer both in Australia and overseas and was engaged by organisations including Telstra, UNESCO and CSIRO.

The Firsts

Whilst Albert Edgar Solomon was, in 1895, the first graduate of the UTAS to be later elected to the Parliament of Tasmania, with Sir Herbert Nicholls being the first graduate to be elected in 1900, Judy Jackson is believed to be the first female graduate to achieve both distinctions.

Judith Louise Jackson BA (1968) DipEd (1969) LLB (1981) was elected to the House of Assembly in 1986 as a Labor member for Denison, having been a school teacher before her election. In Parliament she served in a number of portfolios including Attorney-General and Minister for Health, during her twenty year parliamentary career.

Entrenched conservative community attitudes placing inadequate importance on matters of gender equity were largely responsible for the small number of women previously standing for election and seeking University qualifications. It was not until 1903 that women were eligible to vote in House of Assembly elections and they were ineligible to stand until 1921. It was not until 1968 that full adult franchise was granted for Legislative Council elections. The nineteen eighties saw an increase in the number of women graduates and in the number of them nominating for Parliament. The fact that fewer had done so previously gave the opportunity for a number of 'Firsts' to be achieved.

Suzanne Deidre (Sue) Napier BA (Tasmania), MA (Leeds) was prominent among these trail blazing women graduates. She served as a Liberal member for Bass in the House of Assembly from 1992 until 2010 and in Liberal governments. She was the first female Liberal Leader and Cabinet Minister in Tasmania. She was the first female Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania. She was the first female Liberal Deputy Premier in Tasmania. She was the first female to lead a Division (Tasmanian) of the Liberal Party of Australia. 

Sue Napier served as Minister in many portfolios including Education, Youth Affairs and Transport. For health reasons she did not contest the 2010 State Election and died of breast cancer that year. The University of Tasmania has two memorial scholarships in her honour for Faculty of Education students.

Larissa (Lara) Giddings BA LLB was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1996 as a Labor member for Lyons. Then aged 23, she became the youngest woman elected to any Parliament in Australia. Defeated in 1998, she was later elected in 2002 to the electorate of Franklin. In 2011 she became Tasmania's first female Premier, in which capacity she served until her government was defeated at the 2014 State Election.

Silvia J Smith BA was elected for a six year term in May 1997 as an Independent Labor member in the Legislative Council electorate of Westmorland (changed to Windermere in 1999). She was previously the Labor MHR for Bass in the Federal Parliament for one term. She is the first Tasmanian female to serve as a member in both the State and Federal Parliaments. She is also the first female ALP member to represent a Tasmanian electorate in the Commonwealth House of Representatives.

Kathryn Hay BEd was elected as a Labor member for Bass in the House of Assembly on 20 July 2002. That made her the first woman of Aboriginal descent to be elected to the Parliament of Tasmania. She retired on 18 March 2006.

David John Bartlett BSc became Tasmania's 43rd Premier in May 2008. He was elected as a Labor Party member for Denison on 1 April 2004 by a recount of votes to replace former Premier Jim Bacon who resigned on health grounds; Bartlett became Deputy Premier on 9 April 2009. David Bartlett was Minister for Education and retained that portfolio after becoming Premier. He resigned as Premier on 24 January 2011 to spend more time with family and resigned from Parliament on 13 May 2011.

Heather Rose Butler BA was elected to the House of Assembly as a Labor member for Lyons in May 2005, by a recount following the resignation of Ken Bacon. She held the seat until she was defeated in March 2010. She was named in the Inaugural Tasmanian Honours Roll of Women (2005).

The Hon Dr Vanessa Goodwin BA LLB 1993 (Tasmania), MPhil (Crim) (Cambridge) 1997, PhD (Tasmania) 2006 was elected as the Liberal member for Pembroke in the Legislative Council on 1 August 2009. Upon the election of the Hodgman Liberal Government at the 2014 election, she was appointed Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Corrections and the Arts as well as the demanding role of Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. 

There are currently thirteen members in the forty-seat Parliament of Tasmania who are graduates of the University of Tasmania. Many aspects of education at our University better equip graduates for parliamentary careers. Our University, with smaller class sizes, provides greater opportunity for discussion of many and varied subjects and issues; both during structured lectures and beyond them, and with both academic staff and fellow students. It is often said that in Tasmania, where the population is smaller than in other Australian states, politics are more personal. At the same time, learning in Tasmania is also more personal – and it is not confined to academic subjects. Students' thought processes are developed and they absorb the culture of the University. In this climate, it is not surprising that almost one third of the current members of the Parliament of Tasmania are graduates of the University of Tasmania. May this relationship continue and flourish for the next 125 years.

About the author: Donald George "Don" Wing AM is a former Australian politician. A member of the Tasmanian Legislative Council from 1982 to 2011, representing the electoral division of Launceston, he was President of the Legislative Council from 2002 until 2008.