Australian political dynasties

On Friday Crikey marked the preselection of fourth generation politician Georgina Downer by starting a catalogue of Australia’s many political dynasties. Here’s our second installment.

The Courts

Sir Charles Court held the blue ribbon Western Australia Liberal seat of Nedlands for just under 30 years, from 1953 to 1982 — the last eight years of those he spent as premier of the state. In true monarchic fashion, Nedlands was handed to his son Richard in the byelection triggered by the old man’s retirement. Richard would stay in his seat for nearly 20 years, ascending to the role of premier in 1993. They are currently the only father/son team to both serve as premier of Western Australia. Richard is now Australia’s Ambassador to Japan.

Richard’s older brother Ken was endorsed for the safest Liberal seat in Australia in 1996; it was at the expense of incumbent Allan Rocher, who ran again as an independent and won. The eldest Court brother, Barry, was state president of the Liberals in WA from 2008 to 2011; his wife Margaret, apart from being a champion tennis player, has also dipped her toes in political activism from time to time

The Cains

Heading east now to another father/son premier combo. John Cain was a union organiser and member of the Victorian Socialist Party for around a decade until 1921, when an exodus of VSP members joined the Australia Communist Party. At this point, Cain, who had already been a member of the Victoria Legislative Assembly for four years, shifted away from the left. He rose through the ranks in the troubled governments of George Prendergast and Edmond Hogan throughout the 1920s. By the late 1930s, he had ascended to the leadership and in 1943 he formed government for the first of three times during the next 15 years.

His son John Cain II was born in 1931. After being elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1976, he ascended to leadership in the early 1980s and leading his party to victory in 1982 — the first such Victorian Labor victory since that achieved by his father 27 years earlier. 

The Beazleys

Back in the west, Kim Beazley Jr was appointed governor of WA, capping a lifetime in politics. He spent six years as Australia’s ambassador to the United States, was a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments — as well as Keating’s deputy PM — and of course, served two stints as long-suffering opposition leader during Labor’s wilderness years between 1996 and 2007. His father, Kim Snr, represented the seat of Fremantle for 32 years, taking over from wartime prime minister John Curtin upon Curtin’s death in 1945. 

From 1949, he had to endure more than 20 years in opposition before the election of Gough Whitlam in 1972. He got three years as education minister before the dismissal, and resigned from politics in 1977 over revelations that Whitlam, ALP national secretary David Combe, and Senate candidate Bill Hartley had sought $500,000 to help fund Labor’s 1975 election campaign from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Ba’ath Party.

The Hodgmans

Even Tasmanian state politics has managed a political dynasty — current Premier Will Hodgman is the most recent of three generations of Hodgmans to serve Tasmania in state and federal politics. His grandfather William Hodgman managed three non-consecutive periods in the Tasmanian House of Assembly and Legislative Council between 1955 and 1983. He had two sons, Peter and Michael. Peter was elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council seat of Huon as an independent in 1974; a role he held for 12 years before resigning and running successfully for the Liberals in the House of Assembly seat of Franklin. He stayed in that role until 2001, when he ran for the Franklin’s federal namesake. This was ultimately unsuccessful, as was another tilt of his old set of Huon in 2013.

Michael also represented Huon (from 1966-1974), and in 1975 he stepped up to federal politics, representing the federal seat of Denison until 1987 and serving as Minister for the ACT under Malcolm Fraser from 1980 to 1983. Following his time in federal politics he returned to the state arena, being elected to the seat of Denison twice, from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2011 to 2010. His other profession was defence barrister, and among his more high-profile clients was Mark “Chopper” Read — Hodgman was best man at his wedding.

Stay tuned for part three; somehow, there are even more to come.

Peter Fray

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