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Peter Chapman Tribute

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Tags: Condolence, House of Assembly Restoration, Democracy

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I rise tonight to honour the life of a true champion of democracy and strong public representation in here, Peter Chapman, and to give thanks for his tireless work in the service of our state and its people.

Peter Chapman, head of the Tasmanian Constitutional Society, passed away on 31 May at the age of 82. He was a great friend of many of the parliamentary staff who work in here, a familiar face in the public gallery. He was very well known to the Greens because of his relentless advocacy to restore the numbers in the House of Assembly. What a life of service.

Peter Chapman was a delightful, intelligent, generous spirited man. He was a passionate UTAS scholar who made outstanding contributions to Tasmanian and Australian history. He has been described by his colleagues at the University of Tasmania as the quintessential academic.

He was born in 1940, attended Hutchins School, UTAS and Oxford University, before spending 10 years as a farmer in Ouse. He returned to UTAS in the mid-1970s and a long and interesting career followed.

He was also passionate about university governance and was a founding member of the National Tertiary Education Union in Tasmania. He served numerous university organisations.

In terms of the House's appreciation and understanding of Peter Chapman, some of his finest work came through his relentless advocacy ever since 1998 to reverse the damage caused by the decision of the two major parties in this place to cut the numbers by 10. Many was the time over my 15 years so far in Tasmanian politics where I would look up into the public gallery and there would be Peter Chapman's beautiful, kind face.

His colleague and Emeritus UTAS history professor, Michael Bennett, said Professor Chapman had been:

A very loyal friend to many people over the years. Peter was a great raconteur, a wry observer of the Vanity Fair that we inhabit, with an interest in the foibles of individuals and a capacity to describe our poses and predicaments with Dickensian precision.

He was a loving father and husband and was very proud of his children. His disposition was to assume the best in people and appeal to their better nature.

His late wife Isobel, with whom he shared a long marriage of 50 plus years, died in 2021. Professor Chapman is survived by five children and eight grandchildren, all of whom he was very proud.

We asked the Parliamentary Library for some of Peter Chapman's contributions and clippings, and there are many. They go back many years.

He wrote to the Mercury in December 2012, saying:

We suggest the restoration of the House of Assembly to 35 seats with an instrument of constitutional reform which might address the membership of the Legislature Council and its electoral harmony with the House of Assembly and especially whether a more appropriate harmony with the House of Assembly might be achieved by having either full or half Legislative Council elections coinciding with the House of Assembly.

So many Letters to the Editor. He said in July 2013: 

Tasmania's reduced Parliament is failing and must be restored to its former glory.

He made the point in the Sunday Soapbox article in the Sunday Tasmanian:

Environmental politics are clearly here to stay while the experiment, if it was, of trying to revitalise Tasmania with a smaller parliament has clearly failed.

The Greens could not agree with him more strongly.

Peter Chapman made a submission to the parliamentary inquiry that we established in this House to examine the Greens' bill, the House of Assembly Restoration Bill, in 2019. His submission is so precise and fact rich and full of history. He says at the end:

It's time to act on the present mood of reform and the Tasmanian Constitution Society urges that the Select Committee recommends such action. The Tasmanian parliament has been a cradle of democracy in Australia. It has been significantly damaged by reduction and ought to be repaired so as to restore the substance and spirit of the Tasmanian democratic ethos and restore vitality, capacity and morale both to the Tasmanian parliament and the progress of the state of Tasmania.

He gave excellent evidence to the committee. Again, a very deep understanding of this island's history, of the structures that make up a Westminster parliament, of the value of democracy.

I note that I am sad that Peter Chapman will not be here when we go to 35 seat election, but it gives me great comfort to know that he was sitting here in the Gallery when we passed the Premier's excellent legislation, the Expansion of House of Assembly Bill. He was here when the legislation passed and that was great.

In this funeral notice, he is described in this way: 

Our loyal friend Peter Chapman …

signed off 31st May 2023.





Seeker of Justice

Loving brother of Giles, Susan and Nicky

Beloved father of Rachel, Emma, Sophie, Olivia and Toby

Much loved Papa of Hailey, Sindri, Owen, Hannah, Isaac, Jorja, Sebastian and Evelina

Devoted husband of Isobel.

At his service, in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to Respect the Mountain - No Cable Car. Even after he passed, Peter Chapman was making a great contribution.

Vale the wonderful Peter Chapman.