Michael Atkinson

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For the American writer, see Michael Atkinson (writer). For the Australian musician, see Michael Atkinson (musician).
The Honourable
Michael Atkinson
Michael Atkinson Australia Senate of Poland.JPG
34th Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly
Assumed office
5 February 2013 (2013-02-05)
Premier Jay Weatherill
Preceded by Lyn Breuer
46th Attorney-General of South Australia
In office
5 March 2002 – 30 June 2003
Premier Mike Rann
Preceded by Robert Lawson
Succeeded by Paul Holloway
In office
29 August 2003 – 21 March 2010
Premier Mike Rann
Preceded by Paul Holloway
Succeeded by John Rau
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Member for Croydon
Assumed office
9 February 2002
Preceded by New District
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Member for Spence
In office
25 November 1989 – 9 February 2002
Preceded by Roy Abbott
Succeeded by District Abolished
Personal details
Born Michael John Atkinson
(1958-06-17) 17 June 1958 (age 56)[1]
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Jennifer Rankine (defacto)
Education BA (Hons), LLB
Profession Journalist
Religion Traditional Anglican Communion[2]

Michael John Atkinson (born 17 June 1958), an Australian politician, is the 34th Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly, serving since 5 February 2013.[3] Atkinson is Father of the House.

Prior to his appointment as Speaker, Atkinson was the South Australian Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, and Minister for Multicultural Affairs in the Rann Labor Government. A day after the 2010 election, he stepped down as Attorney-General and resigned from the Cabinet. Atkinson represents the electorate of Croydon in the South Australian House of Assembly.[4][5]

He was a member of the Australian Journalists Association whilst working for the Adelaide Advertiser. He is currently a member of the Australian Services Union.[6]

Early life[edit]

Atkinson attended Glenelg Primary School and Unley High School. He then studied at the Australian National University and received a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in history and also a Bachelor of Laws degree.

He worked as a sub-editor and journalist for the Adelaide Advertiser from 1982 to 1985, an adviser and press secretary to federal minister Chris Hurford from 1985 to 1987, before becoming an advocate for the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association in 1989.

On 20 November 2009 he was awarded the 2009 Friend of the Armenian-Australian Community Award by the Armenian National Committee of Australia.[7]

Parliamentary career[edit]

A founding member of the Labor Unity faction of the Australian Labor Party, Atkinson was first elected to Parliament at the 1989 election and was a shadow minister in a range of portfolios before Labor won government at the 2002 election. He became Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Minister for Consumer Affairs and Minister for Multicultural Affairs. In a minor cabinet reshuffle in 2004, Atkinson lost his portfolio of Consumer Affairs. Following the death of Terry Roberts he became Minister for Correctional Services in 2006.

He was re-elected in the 2006 election to the seat of Croydon with a two-party preferred vote of 76 percent. At the 2010 election Atkinson was again re-elected, but with a 15.6% swing against him.[8] This was significantly higher than the average swing of 7.8% against the Labor Party at that election.[9] This is partially attributed to the Gamers 4 Croydon Party, which received 3.7% of votes in his seat of Croydon. Following his re-election, he announced he would resign from the Rann ministry but remain on the backbench.[4] Atkinson was re-elected with an increased margin at the 2014 election.

On 5 February 2013 Atkinson replaced Lyn Breuer as Speaker of South Australia's lower house.[3]

Political views[edit]

Media classification and censorship[edit]

Atkinson has blocked attempts to introduce a R18+ for video games in Australia.[10] In a letter on the subject, Atkinson stated, "I don't support the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games, chiefly because it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages."[11]

He withdrew his support for a discussion paper released for public consultation on the subject of an "R18+" rating.[12][13] Unanimity from Atkinson and his fellow state and federal Attorneys-General is required for the introduction of the rating (or a change to that requirement).[citation needed] Australia's rating system lacked a classification for games above MA15+ at the time.[14] It therefore lacked not only an equivalent rating to the ESRB's AO (adults only) rating but also an equivalent to its Mature (17+) rating.[14]

In 2009, Atkinson, in his role as Attorney-General of South Australia, introduced laws into parliament that made internet commentary on the upcoming 2010 election illegal unless the commenter provided their real name and postcode. The laws were passed, and came into effect on 6 January 2010.[15] Following public criticism, Atkinson later promised to repeal the section following the 2010 South Australian election and indicated it would not be enforced during the electoral period.[16]

Victims' rights[edit]

In 2008, Atkinson introduced legislation aimed at increasing the rights of victims of crime. The legislation purported to allow victims to suggest a suitable sentence for the offender and made it compulsory for judges to consider imposing a restraining order on convicted sex offenders.[17]

Organised crime non-association legislation[edit]

In his role as Attorney-General, Atkinson has been a proponent of non-association legislation which makes association with declared organisations a criminal offence. The goal of this legislation is to prevent and control the activities of organised crime.

On December 2008, the South Australian Police Commissioner petitioned Atkinson to declare the Finks Motorcycle Club a relevant organisation under the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008 (SA). As required by legislation, Atkinson called for public submissions on whether he should exercise this legislative power. However, the Police Commissioner's application was based largely upon police intelligence that was not made available to the public during the consultation process. It is unknown whether public submissions were actually received or their contents taken into account. On 14 March 2009 Michael Atkinson acceded to the Police Commissioner's petition and declared the Finks Motorcycle Club a declared organisation.[18] The declaration allowed South Australian magistrates to issue control orders against any of the 48 people named in the declaration, making it a criminal offence punishable by up to five years' imprisonment for those named in such orders to associate more than six times a year with fellow club members or others nominated by the Police Commissioner.[19]

Orders pursuant to the declaration were made, and the making of those orders was appealed to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia. On 24 September 2009, the Full Court ruled the orders void, and found the relevant section of the legislation invalid on the basis that it violated a "fundamental proposition" of law that accused people should be informed of the case against them and be given "an opportunity to answer that case".[19]

Atkinson called the ruling a "minor setback" and indicated he and his government intended to appeal the ruling or amend the legislation. In response to the ruling, he said, "As a government we were always aware of the vulnerability of our legislation, because as a government we are willing to test the constitutional boundaries and are willing to take the fight to the outlaw motorcycle gangs," Mr Atkinson said.[19]

Atkinson's treatment of the Finks has drawn opposition from other bikie groups including the Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club. The Gypsy Jokers website has run pictures of Atkinson sporting a swastika and has announced plans for a protest drive aimed against Atkinson and South Australian Premier Mike Rann, scheduled for the day of the 2010 South Australian election.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Atkinson is separated from his wife, Joan[21] (née Phyland), who he married in 1986[citation needed] and with whom he has three sons and a daughter.[22]

Atkinson is a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion.


  1. ^ Who's Who in Australia 2008. 2008. p. 164. 
  2. ^ Livingstone, Tess (19 March 2010). "Anglican-Catholic union has a following". The Australian. 
  3. ^ a b "New parliamentary speaker Michael Atkinson criticised for partisan tweets". AdelaideNow. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Kelton, Greg (22 March 2010). "Attorney-General Michael Atkinson quits front bench". The Advertiser (AdelaideNow). Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "Michael Atkinson – Member and Candidate for Croydon". Australian Labor Party South Australian Branch. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Mayne, Stephen (25 January 2006). "Tracking the unionists in parliament". Crikey. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "Michael Atkinson to receive ANC Australia award". Armenia Weekly. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Green, Antony (29 March 2010). "Croydon 2010 Election Results". ABC News. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Green, Antony (29 March 2010). "2010 South Australian Election State of the Parties". ABC News. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Moses, Asher (15 July 2008). "Fallout continues from ban on game". The Age (The Age Company Ltd). Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "Michael Atkinson explains his stance on a R rating for games". PALGN News (PAL Gaming Network). 28 January 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  12. ^ Hill, Jason (30 October 2008). "Censoring the censorship debate". The Age Blogs: Screen Play (The Age). Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  13. ^ "An R18+ Classification for Computer Games – Public Consultation". Attorney-General's Department. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  14. ^ a b McCauley, Dennis (10 August 2009). "Upcoming RPG Risen Smacked by Australian Banhammer". gamepolitics.com (Entertainment Consumer's Association (ECA)). Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  15. ^ Dowdell, Andrew; McGuire, Michael (2 February 2010). "Outrage as Rann Government, Opposition unite to gag internet election debate". The Advertiser. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  16. ^ Kelton, Greg; Pedley, Derek (2 February 2010). "Attorney-General Michael Atkinson vows to repeal election internet censorship law amid reader furore". The Advertiser. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  17. ^ "Revamped victims' rights bill unveiled". ABC Adelaide. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Atkinson, Michael (14 March 2009). "Ministerial Statement". Government of South Australia. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c Dowdell, Andrew (25 September 2009). "SA Full Court declares Rann's bikie control orders illegal". AdelaideNow. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Littlely, Bryan (17 February 2010). "Bikies plan to ride on polling booths". AdelaideNow. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  21. ^ SA Gov (n.d.). Minister Profile: Hon Michael Atkinson MP. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  22. ^ ABC News (16 Feb 2010). Attorney-General steps up fight with gamers. Retrieved 7 August 2010.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Lawson
Attorney-General of South Australia
Succeeded by
Paul Holloway
Preceded by
Paul Holloway
Attorney-General of South Australia
Succeeded by
John Rau
Parliament of South Australia
Preceded by
Roy Abbott
Member for Spence
District abolished
New district Member for Croydon
Preceded by
Lyn Breuer
34th Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly