George Brandis

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The Honourable
George Brandis
QC
George Brandis.jpg
Attorney General of Australia
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Preceded by Mark Dreyfus
Vice President of the Executive Council
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Preceded by Tony Burke
Minister for the Arts
Incumbent
Assumed office
18 September 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Preceded by Tony Burke
Minister for the Arts and Sport
In office
30 January 2007 – 3 December 2007
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Rod Kemp
Succeeded by Kate Ellis Minister for Sport
Peter Garrett Minister for the Arts
Senator for Queensland
Incumbent
Assumed office
16 May 2000
Preceded by Warwick Parer
Personal details
Born (1957-06-22) 22 June 1957 (age 57)
Sydney, Australia
Political party Liberal Party
Other political
affiliations
Coalition
Alma mater University of Queensland
Magdalen College, Oxford

George Henry Brandis QC (born 22 June 1957) is the 36th Attorney-General for Australia and has been a Liberal member of the Australian Senate representing Queensland since May 2000. Brandis has served as Attorney-General in the Abbott Government since 18 September 2013.[1] He also held the post of Minister for the Arts and Sport from 23 January 2007 until the Howard Government lost the 2007 election.

Education and early career[edit]

Brandis was born in Sydney. He attended Villanova College and then the University of Queensland where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Laws. Following his graduation he served as Associate to Justice Sheahan of the Queensland Supreme Court. He was then elected a Commonwealth Scholar[2] and obtained a Bachelor of Civil Law from Magdalen College, University of Oxford.[3]

Legal career[edit]

Brandis was called to the Queensland Bar in 1985 and quickly developed a large commercial practice with a particular emphasis on trade practices law. He appeared as junior counsel in the High Court of Australia in the important equity case Warman v Dwyer.[4] He was also the junior barrister for the plaintiff in the long running Multigroup Distribution Services v TNT Australia litigation[5] in the Federal Court of Australia.

Brandis was appointed a Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Queensland in November 2006. In June 2013 the original title of Queen's Counsel was restored by the Queensland Government and Brandis was one of 70 (out of 74) Queensland SCs that chose to become QCs.[6]

He has co-edited two books on liberalism and published academic articles on various legal topics, one of which was cited by the High Court of Australia in the landmark defamation case ABC v O'Neill.[7]

While at the Bar he was a board member of UNICEF Australia for 10 years. He has also been an Associate of the Australian Institute for Ethics and the Professions.[8]

Parliamentary career[edit]

He was first chosen by the Parliament of Queensland to fill a casual vacancy following the resignation of Senator Warwick Parer. He was elected to a further six-year term at the 2004 election.

In his period as a senator, he has served as Chairman of the Economics Committee and featured prominently as the Chairman of the Senate's highly publicised Children Overboard Inquiry. In the wake of this inquiry, Brandis gained widespread attention when it was reported that he called Prime Minister John Howard "a lying rodent",[9] a report he denied.[10]

He has also made a number of public speeches, perhaps the most controversial of which was in 2003 when he described the Australian Greens as eco-fascist.[11]

Brandis also attacked the Greens in the Australian Senate where he stated "I intend to continue to call to the attention of the Australian people to the extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis".[12] Prime Minister John Howard later distanced himself from Brandis's claim that the Greens use Nazi-style fanaticism in Australian politics.[13]

On 23 October 2006, Brandis made headlines when he wanted Good Shepherd Catholic College in Mount Isa to ban from its school library the book "100 Greatest Tyrants" by British author Andrew Langley, which places Sir Robert Menzies, the longest serving Australian Prime Minister, in such company as Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Augusto Pinochet.[14] The book claims that Menzies was a tyrant (an abuser of political power) and that Menzies' most tyrannical act was when he wanted to ban the Communist Party of Australia. The school principal Mr Durie said "Obviously it's twaddle to suggest Menzies was a tyrant in the same class as Attila the Hun and that crowd", but refused to withdraw the book as it would be a resource for the generation of debate.[15]

During his time in Parliament and before, Senator Brandis has been a strong supporter of the Young LNP and was a former President of the Young Liberal Movement's QLD Division.

Ministerial career[edit]

Howard administration[edit]

On 23 January 2007, Brandis was appointed Minister for the Arts and Sport, replacing Senator Rod Kemp. He lost his ministerial position on the defeat of the Howard government in the 2007 election.

Shadow ministry[edit]

On 6 December 2007 the new Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, Brendan Nelson, appointed Brandis Shadow Attorney-General, a position he continued to hold under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull.

On 2 June 2008 Brandis, in his capacity as Shadow Attorney-General, referred the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – Superannuation) Bill 2008 to a Senate committee for review. The aim of the bill was to remove legislative provisions that discriminated against gay and lesbian citizens, in this case relating to superannuation.[16][17] Brandis stated that the Opposition believed discrimination of this type should be removed and supported the Labor government's bill against the more conservative elements of his own party.[18] However, he insisted on a review of the proposed legislation prior to enactment. The bill was passed into law with bipartisan support on 9 December 2008.[19]

Brandis consistently opposed proposals for a bill of rights.[20]

In January 2010, Brandis commented on a controversial debate between Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on the topic of advice given to children regarding abstinence. Brandis suggested that as Ms Gillard did not have children, she did not have the understanding to comment on the issue of pre-marital sex.[21]

Abbott administration[edit]

Following re-election in 2010 Brandis was appointed Shadow Attorney-General, Shadow Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in the Abbott shadow ministry.[22]

In 2011 Brandis submitted specific accusations to NSW police commissioner Andrew Scipione that sitting federal M.P. Craig Thomson committed larceny and fraud through misuse of a credit card in the Health Services Union expenses affair which in turn led to public concern about the separation of powers between legislature and the judiciary.[23]

Brandis faced public scrutiny when it was revealed that in 2011 he had billed the taxpayer for attending the wedding ceremony of Sydney radio shock-jock Michael Smith, who had colluded with Brandis to publicise the Craig Thomson media saga. [24] [25]

Racial vilification issue[edit]

In early 2013 Brandis gained media publicity for his views on free speech and media regulation.[26][27][28][29][30] Brandis did not support the Labor government's proposed media reforms in 2013, and was outspoken in support of greater press freedom, particularly for Andrew Bolt who was found to have breached racial vilification laws in commenting on Indigenous Australians of mixed-race descent. Brandis believed section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) should be repealed in favour of greater freedom of expression.[31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] As Attorney-General in 2014, Brandis furthered his push to amend the RDA, in part to allow media commentators such as Andrew Bolt greater freedom of expression,[38] and to legally ensure that "people do have a right to be bigots".[39] Brandis labelled Bolt’s comments on mixed descent aboriginals, found by the Federal Court to be racial vilification, as ‘quite reasonable’,[40] although the federal court found Bolt violated the RDA and the plaintiffs were awarded an apology and legal costs. Professor Marcia Langton was a vocal public critic of Brandis's proposed repeal of the part of the RDA on which the Bolt case was based.[41][42]

Brandis proposed draft legislative amendments in March 2014. The proposal met with criticism from the ALP, Liberal MP Ken Wyatt, and an alliance of racial minority representatives including Jewish lobby groups concerned with holocaust denials in the media.[43][44][45][46] His view was ultimately not supported by his Cabinet colleagues.[47]

East Timor spying case[edit]

Brandis supported and approved a December 2013 ASIO raid on Bernard Collaery’s Canberra office (a legal representative for East Timor), where all documents and computers were seized by the government, and which Brandis claimed was for national security interests.[48] Shortly after the raid, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the Australian government was not permitted to use or view any of the raid evidence. Brandis claimed the ICJ ruling was a good outcome for the government.[49] The Timor Gap case involved allegations of ASIS spying during commercial negotiations with the East Timorese over the $40 billion oil and gas reserves of the contested Greater Sunrise fields within the East Timorese exclusive economic zone.[50]

Additionally Brandis approved the ASIO raid and passport cancellation of a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agent, who was a director of technical operations at ASIS and the whistle-blower on the allegations of commercial spying done by Australia on East Timor, which consequently prevented the unnamed former agent from testifying at the ICJ in the Netherlands.[51][52]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tony Abbott's cabinet and outer ministry". smh.com.au. AAP. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Swain, Harriet (12 June 2008). "Scholarship funding cuts have appalled academics and students alike". The Independent (London). Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  3. ^ http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian?MPID=008W7
  4. ^ "Warman International Ltd v Dwyer [1995] HCA 18; (1995) 182 CLR 544; (1995) 128 ALR 201; (1995) 69 ALJR 362 (23 March 1995)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Multigroup Distribution Services Pty Ltd v TNT Australia Pty Ltd [2001] FCA 226 (12 March 2001)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "States divide over restoration of 'Queen's Counsel' title". The Australian. 14 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "Australian Broadcasting Corporation v O'Neill [2006] HCA 46; 80 ALJR 1672; 229 ALR 457 (28 September 2006)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "Australian Institute of Ethics and the Professions". Uq.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Yaxley, Louise (1 September 2004). "Russell Galt accuses George Brandis of calling PM a 'lying rodent'". AM. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Yaxley, Louise (31 August 2004). "Brandis denies 'lying rodent' slur". PM. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Brandis defends Greens-Nazis comments". Lateline (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 31 October 2003. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  12. ^ Kingston, Margo (29 October 2003). "Nazi Greens an enemy of democracy, government decrees". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  13. ^ "PM revokes backbencher's comments". Lateline (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 31 October 2003. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  14. ^ http://openlibrary.org/books/OL24770922M/100_greatest_tyrants
  15. ^ Christiansen, Melanie (29 October 2003). "Call for book ban". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  16. ^ "Sydney Morning Herald". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 June 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  17. ^ "Australian Human Rights Commission". Hreoc.gov.au. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  18. ^ Harrison, Dan (26 September 2008). "New Libs' stance as senator supports same-sex reforms". The Age (Melbourne). 
  19. ^ "Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—General Law Reform) Act 2008". Comlaw.gov.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  20. ^ Atkins, Dennis (10 December 2008). "George Brandis in battle for bill of rights". The Courier-Mail. 
  21. ^ "Brandis lashes out at childless Gillard". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  22. ^ "Department of the Parliamentary Library – Shadow Ministry". Aph.gov.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  23. ^ Barnes, Greg (29 August 2012). "What sort of A-G would George Brandis make?". ABC. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  24. ^ Maley, Jacqueline (29 September 2013). "George Brandis pays back wedding expenses". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  25. ^ Knott, Matthew (30 September 2013). "Michael Smith: Brandis honest, legit over wedding night expenses". Crikey. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  26. ^ Holmes, Jonathan (15 May 2013). "Correcting the record on 'The Freedom Wars'". The Drum (ABC). Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  27. ^ Ackland, Richard (10 May 2013). "Brandis has huge job being seen as a freedom fighter". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  28. ^ Brandis, George (October 2012). "In Defence of Freedom of Speech". Quadrant. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  29. ^ Kerr, Christian (8 May 2013). "Dreyfus says Brandis stands for hate speech". The Australian. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  30. ^ Emma, Alberici (7 May 2013). "Brandis applauds defeat of media regulation". ABC Lateline. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  31. ^ Brandis, George (11 June 2013). "The Freedom Wars: The George Brandis speech". The Sydney Institute.  (Access available to members only)
  32. ^ Bolt, Andrew (10 July 2012). "Brandis on the Labor menace to free speech". Herald Sun. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  33. ^ "Brandis 'alarmed' at medal for Bolt case lawyer". ABC News. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  34. ^ Hirst & Keeble, Martin & Kathryn (5 November 2011). "'I am not a racist' Andew Bolt and free speech". Academia.edu. 
  35. ^ Griffith, Gareth (October 2011). "Racial vilification laws: the Bolt case from a State perspective". NSW Parliament Library Research Centre. 
  36. ^ Vasek, Lanai (29 September 2011). "Coalition signals bid to change race laws breached by columnist Andrew Bolt". The Australian. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  37. ^ Brandis, George (30 September 2011). "Section 18C has no place in a society that values freedom of expression". The Australian. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  38. ^ Vasek, Lanai (29 September 2011). "Coalition signals bid to change race laws breached by columnist Andrew Bolt". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  39. ^ Harrison, Dan; Swan, Jonathan (24 March 2014). "Attorney-General George Brandis: 'People do have a right to be bigots'". The Age. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  40. ^ Alexander, Harriet (25 January 2013). "Crossin a victim of prejudice: Brandis". The Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  41. ^ Langton, Marcia (22 March 2014). "Keeping Andrew Bolt in Business". The Saturday Paper. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  42. ^ Merritt, Chris (8 November 2013). "Attorney-General George Brandis's first task: repeal 'Bolt laws' in name of free speech". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  43. ^ Owens, Jared (26 March 2014). "George Brandis rejects concerns Holocaust denial will become lawful". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  44. ^ Danby, Michael (25 March 2014). "George Brandis has given Australia's racists a free rein". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  45. ^ Aston, Heath; Swan, Jonathan (26 March 2014). "ALP to rally migrants to fight race hate law changes". The Age. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  46. ^ Massola, James; Swan, Jonathan (25 March 2014). "George Brandis releases planned sweeping changes to race hate laws". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  47. ^ Aston, Heath; Massola, James. Tony Abbott government backdown on race law SMH, 6 August 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014
  48. ^ Allard, Tom (5 March 2014). "George Brandis pleased with court ruling in East Timor spying case". The Age. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  49. ^ AAP, AAP (4 March 2014). "International Court of Justice bans Australia from spying on East Timor". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  50. ^ Deutsch, Anthony (14 March 2010). "Australia gas deal renews tension". Financial Times. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  51. ^ Whinnett, Ellen (5 December 2013). "East Timor takes Timor Gap case with Australia to the Hague amid bullying claims". The Herald Sun. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  52. ^ Taylor, Lenore (4 December 2013). "Timor-Leste spy case: Brandis claims 'ridiculous', says ambassador". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Rod Kemp
Minister for the Arts and Sport
2007
Succeeded by
Peter Garrett
as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
Succeeded by
Kate Ellis
as Minister for Youth and Sport
Preceded by
Mark Dreyfus
Attorney General of Australia
2013–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Tony Burke
Vice President of the Executive Council
2013–present
Minister for the Arts
2013–present