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Hudson, Hugh Richard (1930–1993)

by J. C. Bannon

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Hugh Richard Hudson (1930-1993), politician, university lecturer, and consultant, was born on 12 February 1930 at Wollongong, New South Wales, second child of Stanley Hudson, surveyor, and his wife Phyllis Clare, née McClelland. At North Sydney Boys’ High School Hugh won a scholarship to the University of Sydney (BEc Hons, 1953). He displayed considerable academic prowess and gained a two-year research scholarship to the University of Cambridge (1956-58). While there he won the Stevenson essay prize and edited two volumes of the collected papers of the economist Nicholas Kaldor. On his return to Australia he married Ainslie Ann Rowe, a teacher, on 16 May 1959 at the Auburn Methodist Church, Hawthorn, Victoria.

Hudson was appointed in 1960 as a senior lecturer in the school of economics at the University of Adelaide, and was the first editor of Australian Economic Papers. He was side-tracked from an academic career by his love of politics, and gained endorsement by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to contest the marginal seat of Glenelg in the 1965 State general election. His campaign, with enthusiastic support from university students, focussed on the injustice of the South Australian electoral system, and on the education policies of the Liberal and Country League government of Sir Thomas Playford, which he viewed as inefficient and outdated. He defeated Sir Baden Pattinson, the long-serving education minister, and Labor, under the leadership of Frank Walsh, returned to office after thirty-two years in Opposition.

Under Dunstan, who succeeded Walsh as premier in 1967, Hudson briefly served as minister of housing and of social welfare, but the ALP narrowly lost office in the 1968 election, although Hudson retained his seat. After winning the new seat of Brighton at the 1970 general election, he became minister of education (1970-75) in the new Dunstan government. In this role he supported a very able director-general, Albert Jones, in transforming the department into one of the pace-setters of educational theory and practice in Australia. They were also fortunate that the Karmel reports of 1971 and 1973 led to increased State and Federal funding becoming available for the schools they administered.

With Des Corcoran and Geoff Virgo, Hudson became one of a triumvirate able to dominate cabinet and the ALP caucus under Dunstan’s leadership. In 1975 he was appointed minister of mines and energy, and minister for planning, where again he made his presence felt.     The security of gas supplies to provide an economical source of power for the state was his paramount concern. In 1979 he introduced legislation to prevent the Cooper Basin gas reserves of Santos Ltd from being taken over by entrepreneurs such as Alan Bond. The controversial Act, which restricted private ownership of voting shares in the company, was successful, inducing Bond to sell his stake in Santos. Security of the holdings and the long-term location of a major corporate headquarters in Adelaide were achieved. Hudson’s promotion of nuclear energy was more controversial. Sympathetic to examining nuclear options and sceptical of the capacity of alternatives, he was attacked by party members and presciently contended that when wind turbines were erected around the coast, the same people would be joining environmental protests against them. As minister for planning, he played a key role in the process of converting the City of Adelaide Planning Study into a plan with statutory force.

After Dunstan’s sudden resignation in February 1979 because of ill-health, and with the deputy premier, Des Corcoran, also unwell, Hudson was a logical choice for premier. At the last moment, Corcoran decided to run, and Hudson was elected deputy premier and assigned the portfolios of economic development and of tourism. Against his advice, Corcoran sought a fresh electoral mandate in September. It resulted in the surprise defeat of the government, and Hudson lost his seat.

Quick to master his briefs and make decisions, Hudson’s visitors were often surprised to find the minister, with his feet on the desk, reading a novel. He would explain that he had despatched his dockets for the day and was waiting for his staff to catch up and give him something else to attend to. A prominent parliamentary performer, Hudson was also adept in the management of his portfolios. His confidence made him dismissive not only of the Opposition but of some on his own side. He was impatient with the ALP party machine but his views usually prevailed.

After his defeat, Hudson devoted his energy and intellect to a range of consultancies, enquiries, and directorships at State and national level, and never again sought parliamentary office. He also held a visiting fellowship at the Centre for Policy Studies, Monash University. At the behest of the Hawke government, he was appointed executive chairman of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission (1984-87), producing a report which resulted in major changes, including the establishment of centres of excellence and the abolition of the commission itself. The Bannon Labor government appointed him to the Pipelines Authority of South Australia (1982-4), and to enquire into water rating policy (1990).

A low-handicap golfer until a knee injury forced retirement, Hudson was an expert bridge player and a successful punter on the horses using his own scientific betting method. A big man with a stentorian voice and massive laugh, and a heavy smoker, his death in Canberra from cancer on 11 May 1993 curtailed a career of service still in progress. He was survived by his wife, son and two daughters, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Anderson, Kym and Bernard O’Neil. The Building of Economics at Adelaide, 1901-2001. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press, 2002
  • Gibbs, R. M. Bulls, Bears and Wildcats: A Centenary History of the Stock Exchange of Adelaide. Adelaide: Peacock Publications, 1988
  • Hansard, 3 August, 1993. House of Assembly, 3-5
  • Legislative Council, 6-9
  • Hudson, H.R. ‘The Integration of Cycles and Growth.’ Australian Economic Papers 3 (1963): 107-20
  • Hudson, H. R. Cooper Basin: Exploration, Development and Pricing Issues. Discussion Paper no. 3, Centre for Policy Studies, Monash University, 1980
  • Hudson, H. R. Review of the Structure of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission and Arrangements for Co-ordination and consultation with States and Institutions. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1985
  • Jaensch, Dean. History of South Australian Elections, 1857-2006, Rose Park, SA: State Electoral Office of South Australia, 2007
  • Jaensch, Dean, ed. The Flinders History of South Australia: Political History. Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1986
  • Millmow, Alex. ‘The Influence of the History of Economics on Pluralism: the Cambridge Economic Tradition and Australian Economics.’ Courvisanos, Jerry, James Doughney, and Alex Millmow (eds). Reclaiming Pluralism in Economics. Oxford: Routledge, 2016, 76-79
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • Thiele, Colin. Grains of Mustard Seed. Adelaide: Education Department, 1975

Citation details

J. C. Bannon, 'Hudson, Hugh Richard (1930–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/hudson-hugh-richard-18281/text29888, accessed 24 April 2017.

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