Eric Abetz

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Senator The Honourable
Eric Abetz
Senator Eric Abetz.jpg
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Deputy George Brandis
Preceded by Penny Wong
Minister for Employment
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Preceded by Bill Shorten
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
In office
3 May 2010 – 18 September 2013
Deputy George Brandis
Leader Tony Abbott
Preceded by Nick Minchin
Succeeded by Penny Wong
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation
In office
27 January 2006 – 3 December 2007
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Ian Macdonald
Succeeded by Title abolished
Special Minister of State
In office
30 January 2001 – 27 January 2006
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Chris Ellison
Succeeded by Gary Nairn
Senator for Tasmania
Incumbent
Assumed office
22 February 1994
Preceded by Brian Archer
Personal details
Born (1958-01-25) 25 January 1958 (age 56)
Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany (now Germany)
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal Party of Australia
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Profession Lawyer
Religion Christianity

Eric Abetz (born 25 January 1958) is an Australian politician and a Liberal Party member of the Australian Senate since February 1994, representing the state of Tasmania. Abetz has been the Minister for Employment and the Leader of the Government in the Senate in the Abbott Government since 18 September 2013.[1] He previously also served as a Special Minister of State in the Howard Government, from 2001 to 2006.

Born in Germany, Abetz emigrated to Australia as a small child, when his father came to work for Tasmania's Hydro Electric Commission. He was educated at the University of Tasmania and was a barrister and solicitor before entering politics. A former national president of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation, he was state president of the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party from 1990 to 1994.

Family[edit]

The youngest of six children, Abetz emigrated from Germany to Australia with his parents in 1961.[2] His father, a radio technician, came to Australia to work for Tasmania's Hydro Electric Commission, which had advertised for skilled workers in German newspapers.[3] Another one of the Abetz children is Peter Abetz, who has been the Liberal member for Southern River in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia since the 2008 state election. The brothers are grandnephews of Otto Abetz, a Brigadier General in the Schutzstaffel, who was Nazi Germany's ambassador to Vichy France from 1940 to 1944[4] and was sentenced to 20 years for war crimes, relating to the deportation of French Jews[5]

Studies[edit]

Abetz studied at Taroona High School, Hobart Matriculation College and the University of Tasmania, earning degrees in law and arts in 1981. In 1980–1981, he became the only Tasmanian to become national president of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation, during which time he came into political conflict with Nick Sherry and Sue Mackay, both later to be Australian Labor Party senators.[3]

Political career[edit]

He won preselection to fill the casual vacancy caused by the resignation of Brian Archer in 1994, and was elected in his own right at the subsequent 1998 election and re-elected in 2004. Abetz was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence 1998–2001 and was Special Minister of State from January 2001 until 2006.

Abetz earlier in his political career.

He has served as Chairman of the Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund Committee and Chairman of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. He also served as Chairman of the Attorney-General and Justice Government Members' Committee.[6]

He was a member of a Parliamentary Delegation which visited France and Belgium in June and July 1997, and made an official visit to the United Kingdom in September 1999.[7]

He was Minister for Forestry from a reshuffle of the Howard ministry in January 2006 until its defeat at the 2007 election. He commenced his portfolio by attacking the Australian Greens and environmentalists in general as anti-Australian. He described the campaign against woodchipping as "akin to treason" and branded the Greens an "extreme left" party.[8] This allowed him to position the government's priorities as mainstream issues which both major parties wanted action on.[9]

Abetz was re-elected in the 2010 election and was appointed Minister for Employment in the Abbott Government in September 2013.

Abetz is a Christian and a member of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia. Throughout his political career he has been variously associated with conservative groups, including the Association of Christian Parent Controlled Schools, Salt Shakers, Focus on the Family, Lyons Forum, Endeavour Forum, Family Council of Victoria, Fatherhood Foundation, Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Family Association and Right to Life Australia.[10]

OzCar affair[edit]

In mid-2009 Abetz was a central figure in the OzCar affair, which involved allegations that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan had improperly given favourable treatment to a car dealer, John Grant, who was a friend of the Prime Minister. At a Senate inquiry on 19 June, Abetz asked a series of questions of a Treasury official, Godwin Grech, who testified that he had a "recollection" that a member of Rudd's staff had sent him an email in February, asking that he provide preferential treatment to Grant. Abetz read out the text of what he said was an email, which purported to ask for preferential treatment for Grant.[11][12] On 4 August 2009, Grech admitted that he had forged the email.[13] Abetz then issued an apology, saying: "I am not only sorry to Malcolm Turnbull but to the Australian people and any anguish that may have been occasioned to Kevin Rudd and other people."[14]

Eligibility to hold Senate office[edit]

On 30 July 2010, a Tasmanian resident, John Hawkins, lodged an objection to Abetz's nomination for re-election, alleging that Abetz held dual citizenship of both his birthplace, Germany, and Australia.[15] The Australian Constitution prevents someone who is a citizen of a foreign country from holding Parliamentary office. Hawkins subsequently withdrew the petition to the High Court of Australia after receiving documentation of Abetz's renunciation of his German citizenship on 9 March 2010. As a result, Hawkins withdrew as a hearing regarding Abetz and his citizenship could only be heard before the court when a claim is lodged within a thirty-day window after the 2010 election and for that election alone. The Tasmanian Times published a series of articles in the lead up to this matter. The High Court never heard the claim.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tony Abbott's cabinet and outer ministry". smh.com.au. AAP. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  2. ^ http://abetz.com.au/about
  3. ^ a b Wilson, Peter (2002). The Australian Political Almanack. 
  4. ^ Campbell, James; Wright, Lincoln (2 March 2008). "My family's Nazi past". Sunday Herald Sun. 
  5. ^ http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/senators-uncle-otto-was-nazi-criminal/2008/03/01/1204402254993.html
  6. ^ "Eric Abetz website",
  7. ^ "Parliamentary biography"
  8. ^ Ferguson, Peter (September 2009). "Anti-environmentalism and the Australian culture war". Journal of Australian Studies 33 (3): 289–304. doi:10.1080/14443050903079680. 
  9. ^ "Senator Abetz starts new portfolio with attack on Greens", ABC Tasmania, 25 January 2005; "New Forestry Minister rebuffs Greens", The World Today, ABC, 25 January 2006
  10. ^ "Know Your Politician Information Series"
  11. ^ Rodgers, Emma (June 20, 2009). "PM stands by OzCar denial". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  12. ^ Rodgers, Emma (June 19, 2009). "Rudd linked to OzCar lobbying". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  13. ^ "Grech 'wrote fake email'". The Age (Melbourne). 4 August 2009. 
  14. ^ "Liberal senator Eric Abetz apology for Ute-gate debacle". Herald Sun. August 6, 2009. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  15. ^ Neales, Sue (July 30, 2010). "Legal bid to oust Abetz". The Mercury. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  16. ^ Kempton, Helen (November 16, 2010). "Abetz hits 'smear campaign'". The Mercury. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Chris Ellison
Special Minister of State
2001–2006
Succeeded by
Gary Nairn
Preceded by
Ian Macdonald
Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation
2006–2007
Title abolished
Preceded by
Brendan O'Connor
as Minister for Employment and Minister for Skills and Training
Minister for Employment
2013–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Nick Minchin
Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate
2010–present
Incumbent