Eric Abetz

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Senator The Honourable
Eric Abetz
Eric Abetz.jpg
Minister for Employment
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Preceded by Bill Shorten
Senator for Tasmania
Incumbent
Assumed office
22 February 1994
Preceded by Brian Archer
Special Minister of State
In office
30 January 2001 – 27 January 2006
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Chris Ellison
Succeeded by Gary Nairn
Personal details
Born (1958-01-25) 25 January 1958 (age 56)
Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Nationality Australian
Political party Liberal
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Profession Lawyer
Politician
Religion Christian Reformed Churches of Australia

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 was educated at the University of Tasmania and was a barrister and solicitor before entering politics. He was Tasmanian State President of the Liberal Party 1990–1994.

Family[edit]

The youngest of six children, Abetz emigrated with his parents to Australia in 1961 from Germany.[2] His father, a radio technician, decided to emigrate after reading in a newspaper that a trade mission led by the minister responsible for the Tasmanian Hydro Electric Commission was visiting Stuttgart in search of skilled workers for employment in new 'Hydro' power schemes. His father was one of those employed by that scheme.[3] Abetz's brother is Reverend Peter Abetz who won the lower house seat of Southern River in the 2008 Western Australian state election for the Liberal Party. Abetz is the great-nephew of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Abetz, Nazi German ambassador to Vichy France from 1940 to 1944.[4]

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.

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] This allowed him to position the government's priorities as mainstream issues which both major parties wanted action on.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10][11] On 4 August 2009, Grech admitted that he had forged the email.[12] 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."[13]

Eligibility to hold Senate office[edit]

On 30 July 2010, a Tasmanian resident, John Hawkins, lodged an objection to Eric Abetz's nomination for reelection alleging that Abetz holds dual citizenship of both his birthplace, Germany, and Australia.[14] 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 German citizenship. As a result, the High Court never heard the claim.[15]

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. ^ "Eric Abetz website",
  6. ^ "Parliamentary biography"
  7. ^ Ferguson, Peter (September 2009). "Anti-environmentalism and the Australian culture war". Journal of Australian Studies 33 (3): 289–304. doi:10.1080/14443050903079680. 
  8. ^ "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
  9. ^ "Know Your Politician Information Series"
  10. ^ Rodgers, Emma (June 20, 2009). "PM stands by OzCar denial". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  11. ^ Rodgers, Emma (June 19, 2009). "Rudd linked to OzCar lobbying". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  12. ^ "Grech 'wrote fake email'". The Age (Melbourne). 4 August 2009. 
  13. ^ "Liberal senator Eric Abetz apology for Ute-gate debacle". Herald Sun. August 6, 2009. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  14. ^ Neales, Sue (July 30, 2010). "Legal bid to oust Abetz". The Mercury. Retrieved 2012-05-28. 
  15. ^ 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