By Matt Smith
THE Hobart electorate of Denison would get a name change to honour Andrew Inglis Clark under a proposal being pushed by a former Tasmanian of the Year.
Rodney Croome, best known as a gay rights activist, has started an online petition urging the Australian Electoral Commission to honour Hobart-born Inglis Clark.
Inglis Clark was a principal author of the Australian Constitution, an engineer, barrister, politician, electoral reformer, University of Tasmania vice-chancellor and Supreme Court judge.
Inglis Clark is remembered as an ultra-progressive politician and in 1878 was described in the Mercury as more suited to be ranked among radicals and communists because of his “very extreme ultra-republican, if not revolutionary, ideas”.
“Andrew Inglis Clark deserves far more recognition than he has received, and should have his home electorate named after him,” Mr Croome told theSunday Tasmanian.
“He was an energetic reformer, a human rights advocate, a defender of equality for women and workers, a pioneer of democratic government, a campaigner against corruption, a respected judge, a vice-chancellor of the University of Tasmania and the primary author of the Australian Constitution.
“By contrast, Sir William Denison wanted to continue convict transportation to Tasmania and tried to frustrate democracy.”
Sir William Thomas Denison was lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen’s Land from 1847 to 1855. His stint got off to a difficult start when he tried to rule without the Legislative Council. Six members of the council had quit over rising prison costs before his arrival, which meant the council had no quorum and no legislation could be passed.
Some of Denison’s less than flattering reports about local colonists were made public, which did not help his popularity.
He later presided over the end of convict transportation and the first elections, supported the colony’s change of name to Tasmania, and went on to become governor of New South Wales.
In 2008 a push to change the name of the Denison electorate was supported by former Labor MP Duncan Kerr, who held the seat from 1987 to 2000. He was joined by former Federal Court judge Peter Heerey, former High Court judge Michael Kirby and several Labor and Greens MPs.
On the other side of politics, the late Michael Hodgman, who held the seat for the Liberals for 12 years, was a vocal opponent of the name change.
The present federal MP for Denison, independent Andrew Wilkie, said: “I see the merit in the proposition, but don’t think this is the time to be spending the considerable amount of money that would be needed to change all of the electoral material and inform the community of the change.”
Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor supported the change. Premier Will Hodgman did not respond to questions yesterday.
The Australian Electoral Commission is calling for submissions looking at the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Tasmania. The names of electoral divisions can be considered as part of that process.
This article was originally published in The Mercury on 18 September 2016.
Head over to change.org to sign Rodney’s petition.