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Dodgshun, Keith (1893–1971)

by B. J. Costar

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Keith Dodgshun (1893-1971), farmer and politician, was born on 31 July 1893 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, son of Frederick William Dodgshun, a Victorian-born warehouse proprietor, and his wife Rosa May, née Russell, from London. Keith's grandfather, Yorkshire-born James Dodgshun (1833-1904), had been lord mayor of Melbourne in 1882-83. Educated at Camberwell Grammar School and Burnley School of Horticulture (where he was dux), Keith farmed and managed the family property at Egerton, near Ballan. On 7 November 1917 he joined the Australian Imperial Force. He served briefly in France as a gunner in the 1st Field Artillery Brigade. Discharged on 6 June 1919, Dodgshun took up a soldier-settlement block at Hopetoun, Victoria, where on 15 September 1925 he married Dorothy Lilian Gulliver in St Luke's Anglican Church.

A Baptist and a Freemason, Dodgshun was active in returned servicemen's and wheatgrowers' associations, and played cricket and football. He joined the Victorian Farmers' Union in 1922 and was elected to the Karkarooc Shire Council in 1933. President of the Hopetoun branch of the Victorian United Country Party, he chaired its Ouyen electorate council and (Sir) Albert Bussau's campaign committee during the 1930s. As chairman of the Wimmera electorate council, Dodgshun was opposed to the Country Party forming coalition ministries. In 1934 he clashed with a Federal member Hugh McClelland who refused to sign a pledge not to join a coalition government without the permission of the V.U.C.P.'s central council. When Bussau was appointed Victorian agent-general to London, Dodgshun won the keenly contested pre-selection for Ouyen and was elected unopposed to the Legislative Assembly at the by-election on 5 May 1938.

At the State level, internal Country Party politics in the late 1930s were both complex and spiteful. (Sir) John McEwen's expulsion from the party in 1937 for joining the Lyons-Page ministry occasioned the formation of the breakaway Liberal Country Party, against which Dodgshun campaigned vigorously. In 1939 Premier (Sir) Albert Dunstan and A. E. Hocking fell out over the central council's refusal to endorse Dunstan's son as the candidate for Bulla-Dalhousie; Dunstan subsequently removed Hocking from the board of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. Because Dodgshun supported Hocking, Dunstan excluded him from his cabinets. Dodgshun regularly voted against the government and assisted in its downfall in 1945. From that year, following a redistribution, he represented the electorate of Rainbow.

Although Dodgshun had differences with Dunstan's successor (Sir) John McDonald, he served him loyally as deputy-leader in 1945-55. On the formation of the Hollway-McDonald coalition in November 1947, Dodgshun was appointed chief secretary. He later complained that Hollway offered him this post—rather than the coveted agriculture portfolio which went to a Liberal—to prevent the Country Party from attaining greater prominence on rural issues. The coalition proved unstable. In November 1948 Hollway settled an industrial dispute in a manner which McDonald regarded as disloyal. Having complained that he had been called off the Hopetoun bowling green to be informed of Hollway's action, Dodgshun was nicknamed 'Sir Francis'. On 3 December the Country Party withdrew from the coalition.

Hollway's new Liberal ministry collapsed on 27 June 1950. In McDonald's Country Party government (1950-52) Dodgshun was again chief secretary, with the added portfolios of electoral undertakings and immigration. His significant legislative achievement was the introduction in 1950 of full adult suffrage for Legislative Council elections, agreed upon in an Australian Labor Party-Country Party deal. A colleague T. W. Mitchell, however, recalled that Dodgshun's major contribution was to act as a calming and moderating influence in a turbulent and sometimes fiery cabinet.

The A.L.P.'s support for the McDonald government waned as the ministry consistently resisted pressure for electoral reform. With A.L.P. backing, Hollway moved a want of confidence motion on 17 September 1952 and 'Dodger Dodgshun' was denounced for allegedly reneging on an agreement to moderate the high weighting given to rural electorates. The A.L.P. won an absolute majority of assembly seats at the 1952 election. Dodgshun continued as deputy-leader of the Country Party, but, conscious of a worsening heart condition, retired reluctantly in 1955 after his seat had been abolished in the 1953 redistribution.

In retirement at Hopetoun, Dodgshun was chairman of directors (1965-71) of the Phosphate Co-operative Co. of Australia Ltd, of which he had been an original shareholder in 1919. He campaigned for the extension of electricity to remote areas. Survived by his wife and son, he died on 12 May 1971 at Hopetoun; he was accorded a state funeral and buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Barbor, They Went Their Way (Traralgon, Vic, 1960)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 7 Dec 1948, 9 Aug 1950, 31 Aug 1971
  • Countryman (Melbourne), 25 Feb, 14 Apr, 29 Apr 1938, 30 Sept 1955, 3 June 1971
  • Age (Melbourne), 27 Apr 1938
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 6 May 1938
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18 Sept 1954
  • J. B. Paul, The Premiership of Sir Albert Dunstan (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1961).

Citation details

B. J. Costar, 'Dodgshun, Keith (1893–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dodgshun-keith-10029/text17681, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 19 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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