Nick Bolkus

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The Honourable
Nick Bolkus
Senator for South Australia
In office
1 July 1981 – 30 June 2005
Personal details
Born (1950-07-17) 17 July 1950 (age 64)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Political party Labor

Nick Bolkus (born 17 July 1950) is a former Australian Labor Party politician. He was a member of the Senate from July 1981 to 2005, representing the state of South Australia.

Early career[edit]

He was born in Adelaide and was educated at the University of Adelaide. He was very briefly a lawyer in 1974 and 1975. He moved into political advising and became a research officer for a number of Australian Labor Party (ALP) members including Clyde Cameron. He unsuccessfully ran for the seat of Adelaide in 1976.[citation needed] He entered politics as a Senator for South Australia following the Australian federal election, 1980.[1]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Bolkus stayed on the back bench for his first seven years in Parliament. Bolkus was eventually promoted to the outer Ministry as Minister for Consumer Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer for Prices (1988–90). Bolkus became a Cabinet Minister for five years, as Minister for Administrative Services (1990–93) (a Ministry which was later relegated out of Cabinet), and then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs (1993–96).

After the end of the Keating Government (due to its election defeat in 1996), Bolkus was a member of the Opposition Shadow Ministry from March 1996 to November 2001. He remained on the back bench for the final four years of his career in Parliament.

Dante Tan scandal[edit]

In 2003, it became apparent that Bolkus had failed to declare donations made by Dante Tan (a corporate criminal from the Philippines).[2] Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott accused Bolkus of having breached the legal requirements of accepting a political donation.[3] Abbott also accused Bolkus of money laundering,[4] however it became clear that the matter was in fact not a breach of any regulations regarding political donations.

However, later that year, the South Australia ALP (and significantly the left faction) advised Bolkus that they would not support his bid for another term in office. Those who opposed his bid included Penny Wong, Jay Weatherill and then-LHMEU Branch Secretary (and later Member of Federal Parliament) Mark Butler. They claimed that Bolkus' reputation had been scarred by the allegations of impropriety and that another term would only damage the ALP. They pointed to the significant media coverage of the scandal and argued that even if no law had been broken, Bolkus had publicly and knowingly socialised with a known corporate criminal. However, some commentators have suggested that the ALP had no real concerns regarding Tan. Rather, the negative media coverage was exploited as an opportunity to remove a politician who the ALP, for various reasons, wanted to get rid of. An aggrieved Bolkus (in some sense rightfully aggrieved as he had in fact not broken any laws) pursued Nationwide News for defamation. He was successful in the District Court of South Australia in Bolkus v Nationwide News.[5]

Life after politics[edit]

Since retiring from public life, Bolkus has been implicated in a number of high profile lobbying efforts, primarily concerning questionable major property development approvals, through his contacts in the former Mike Rann and later Jay Weatherill ALP Governments.


Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Peter Staples
Minister for Consumer Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael Tate
Preceded by
Gerry Hand
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Succeeded by
Philip Ruddock