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|Senator for South Australia|
1 July 1981 – 30 June 2005
17 July 1950 |
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
- 1 Early career
- 2 Parliamentary career
- 2.1 Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Assisting for Prices 1988-90
- 2.2 Minister for Administrative Services 1990-93
- 2.3 Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs 1993-96
- 2.4 Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
- 2.5 Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage
- 2.6 Parliamentary Committee Experience
- 3 Dante Tan
- 4 Current Positions
- 5 References
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. He entered politics as a Senator for South Australia following the Australian federal election, 1980.
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.
Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Assisting for Prices 1988-90
Bolkus was first elected to the Federal Ministry in February 1988 as Minister for Consumer Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer for Prices. In this portfolio he introduced world leading legislation to protect the privacy of individuals in their relationships with credit data agencies. He was also responsible for introducing the Banking Ombudsman, streamlining National Uniform Food Laws, introducing a series of Codes of Conduct protecting consumers, and initiating enquiries into the pricing practices of the computer software, music and book industries.
Minister for Administrative Services 1990-93
Bolkus was appointed to Cabinet in 1990 as Minister for Administrative Services, a portfolio which he held until the 1993 election. In this portfolio he introduced comprehensive legislation for the disclosure of political donations. He was also responsible for the successful transition of the Department to a commercialised, corporatised and competitive body. Bolkus drove a structural reform agenda which radically reformed the supply of services to Government. The Agenda commercialised much of the Government’s construction and supply facilities. It was managed without a day lost to industrial action. At the same time, he used the extensive reach of a department which had responsibility in such areas as Commonwealth property ownership, construction, purchasing and the Australian Electoral Commission, to pursue the government’s environmental and industry policy agenda, particularly in the Information Technology area.
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs 1993-96
In 1993 Bolkus was appointed Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs. He held these portfolios until the 1996 election. In these positions, Bolkus drove a reform agenda which aimed at making both the Department's and Government’s immigration, refugee and multicultural policies more relevant to Australia's social, economic and humanitarian needs. Most importantly, he drove a major restructure of the Department.
Major reforms were implemented in Australia’s economic migration infrastructure,
The achievements of this 3 year period include a radical restructure of both the Department and policy, including: • rewriting Australia's Migration laws • recognition of the importance of temporary business entry through initiatives such as the APEC card "invisible visa" entry for Tourism, and the Business "life of passport" visa • fundamental restructuring of the business migration program • the first review of the Australian Citizenship Act since its 1948 introduction • the establishment of the Refugee Review Tribunal • the revision of Australia’s Oath and Allegiance by removing reference to the Queen • the introduction of a major Citizenship Promotion program • increase in the annual migration and refugee programs
Bolkus has been an advocate of a non-discriminatory migration program and multiculturalism. These issues were among his main reasons for joining the Australian Labor Party in 1966. In Government, Senator Bolkus significantly progressed Australia’s "Productive Diversity" policies which encourage awareness and deployment of the economic benefits of Australia’s multicultural society.
Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice
Nick Bolkus was the Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice from 1996 to the 1998 Federal election. He played a leading role in issues such as Constitutional change towards an Australian Republic, and access to Justice. He also carried the debate for the Opposition on the Wik Native Title legislation, the longest Committee debate in the Senate’s history.
Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Bolkus was appointed to this portfolio after the 1998 election. He came to it after years of Ministerial involvement in environmental issues, including as Minister for Administrative Services, and through the establishment of an Environmental Futures team with the task of "Greening" the Government’s construction, energy use and purchasing policies. As Shadow Minister he formulated policies to address Australia's major environmental challenges, including water, salinity and greenhouse gas emissions and carbon trading.
Parliamentary Committee Experience
Bolkus has served on and Chaired a number of Parliamentary Committees in the areas of Legal and Constitutional Affairs,Foreign Affairs, Industrial Relations, Corporation Legislation, Indigenous Affairs, and Human Rights He was Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. He represented the Australian Parliament at the 1983 and 1984 Constitutional Conventions and at the 41st General Assembly of the United Nations in 1986.
In 2003, it became apparent that Bolkus had failed to declare donations made by Dante Tan (a person alleged by some, including Tony Abbott, to be a corporate criminal from the Philippines. Tan was not found guilty of any criminal offence in either the Philippines or Australia. Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott accused Bolkus of having breached the legal requirements of accepting a political donation. Abbott also accused Bolkus of money laundering, 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. Bolkus successfully sued Nationwide News for defamation in the District Court of South Australia in the Bolkus v Nationwide News case.
Bolkus is currently a Partner at a corporate advisory firm, Bespoke Approach. A unique bipartisan partnership of four political and business leaders, Bespoke Approach is owned by former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Bolkus, corporate and political advisor Ian Smith and former Senior Vice President at News Limited Andrew Butcher. Downer is now Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, while Smith, Downer and Bolkus are active in the business. Bespoke Approach offers tailored solutions to leading Australian and international organisations on political, regulatory and strategic communications issues.
Bolkus is Adviser to the Australian Hokkien Association.
He is also currently a Director of the Industry based, Australian Fisheries Academy.
- Parliamentary Handbook – Supplement to biographical information in 29th edition on former Senators and Members of the 40th Parliament
- AM (ABC Radio): Failure to declare donation an honest mistake: Nick Bolkus, ABC Local Radio, 25 June 2003.
- Riley, Mark: Now Labor under fire over funds given on the quiet, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 2003.
- AFP may investigate Senator Bolkus, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 2003.
- Bolkus vs Nationwide News, Australasia Legal Information Institute.
|Parliament of Australia|
|Minister for Consumer Affairs
|Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs