David Combe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

David Combe (born 26 April 1943) was National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), a political consultant and lobbyist, an Australian Trade Commissioner, a Senior Vice-President International of Southcorp Wines, and a consultant to the Australian wine industry.

Early life[edit]

Harvey David Mathew Combe was born in 1943 in Adelaide, South Australia, and was educated at Prince Alfred College and the University of Adelaide, where he earned a BA.. He became interested in politics at university and joined the ALP, partly through his friendship with Don Dunstan. (He has been Patron of the Don Dunstan Foundation since 2004.)[1]:pp.230,240


Combe was National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party (1973–1981), a political consultant and lobbyist (1981–1985), and an Australian senior trade commissioner (1985–1991), and has held senior executive and board positions within the Australian wine industry (1991–2008).


In 1973 Combe became the youngest-ever National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party after the election of the first Labor government for 23 years. In November 1975, he was allegedly co-instigator, with Gough Whitlam and Bill Hartley, of an unsuccessful approach to Saddam Hussein's Iraq for a gift of 500,000 U.S. dollars to help in funding Labor's 1975 election campaign.[2] Labor lost the election. In an article published in The Bulletin in January 1982 Combe propagated the notion that Labor's defeat was partly due to the influence of the CIA.[3]:p.232

Combe remained National Secretary until July 1981, when he resigned to establish a lobbying business, David Combe and Associates Pty Ltd. It reportedly "received a great fillip in March 1983, when the Labor Party was re-elected to office. Business perceived Combe as the most influential lobbyist then working in Canberra."[4]:p.1

Combe-Ivanov affair[edit]

In 1983 Combe was accused of compromising Australia's national security in dealings with a Soviet diplomat, Valery Ivanov.[4][5][3]

The Combe-Ivanov affair developed out of a trip Combe and his wife made to the USSR in 1982, in the course of preparations for which they met and developed a relationship with Valery Ivanov, then the First Secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Soon after the formation of the Hawke government ASIO raised concerns that Combe, closely aligned to the ALP, might be being compromised by a Soviet citizen with KGB links. Ivanov was expelled from Australia in 1983 by Prime Minister Bob Hawke.[6]

The highly publicised events were investigated by the Hope Royal Commission on Australia's security and intelligence agencies of 1983–1984. The commission found that Combe had indeed been targeted by the Soviets, but there was no proof of intelligence breaches or of any threat to national security. [7]

Trade commissioner[edit]

Combe was Australia's senior trade commissioner in Western Canada from 1985 to 1989, and in Hong Kong from 1990 to 1991.[1]

Wine industry[edit]

Combe was Senior Vice-President International and ran the European operations of Penfolds and Southcorp Wines during the rise in popularity of Australian wines in the 1990s. He is credited with developing significant export business for Southcorp Wines, whose exports increased in value from 40 million Australian dollars in August 1991 to 300 million dollars in June 2000.[1] In 2000 Combe was named Australia's Top Export Salesman by Overseas Trading magazine and was included in the list of "Twenty Five Most Influential Australians in Asia" published by Business Asia magazine.[8]

From March 2001 to November 2003 Combe was a non-executive director for the Western Australian wine producer Evans and Tate Limited.[9]

In 2004, in a speech at Bordeaux, he lambasted the wine-purchasing policies of UK supermarkets, which, he said, "if committed in Australia, would represent major breaches of the trade practices laws".[10]

In June 2004 he was appointed Chairman of Simon Gilbert Wines,[11] He retired as a director and chairman in February 2007, "to take up another position within the wine industry".[12]


In 1983, Keith Looby painted Combe's portrait. The portrait was an unsuccessful entry in the Archibald Prize of 1983, and conspiracy theories on this matter abound. David Combe said in 1998 that there was 'circumstantially a good case to believe that some trustees were heavied by the Party' into rejecting the work.[1][3] In 1998, Combe donated his portrait to the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, "through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program".[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e David Combe and the portrait, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
  2. ^ Parkinson, Tony Shame, Whitlam, Shame The Age, 15 November 2005
  3. ^ a b c Cain, Frank The Australian Security Intelligence Organization: An Unofficial History, Abingdon: Frank Cass & Co Ltd 1994 ISBN 0-7146-3477-8. Preview at Google books. Of particular relevance, Ch. 10: ASIO in the 1980s pp223-252;
    "Australian-Soviet Trade" pp.227–228,
    "The Third Man – Lawrence Matheson" pp228-230 and
    "The Rise and Fall of David Combe" pp230-234.
    The rest of the chapter discusses "ASIO and the Combe-Ivanov affair" and "Justice Hope's Royal Commission".
  4. ^ a b Blesing, Meena. Was Your Dad a Russian Spy? The Personal Story of the Combe/Ivanov Affair. Sun Books, 1986.
    The National Library of Australia catalogue entry states: "by David Combe's wife, Meena Blesing".
  5. ^ Milliken R Harvey Barnett Obituary The Independent, London, 1 August 1995
  6. ^ "Australia Scandal Erupts Over Soviet Diplomat". The New York Times. 12 May 1983. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  7. ^ Pryor, Geoff, [1], National Library of Australia, retrieved 1 July 2015.
  8. ^ Speaker's profile: David Combe, at Claxton Speakers (undated)
  9. ^ Evans & Tate media release, 22 February 2001 copy available here
  10. ^ Erhlich, R My Round: State of Independence The Independent, London, 11 April 2004
  11. ^ Speaker's Profile, David Combe, Chairman of Simon Gilbert Wines Limited, Australia. Skalli & Rein "Wine Revolution" Conference, www.skalliandrein.com. Cached at cache.zoominfo.com (2007). Retrieved on 1 September 2009.
  12. ^ Simon Gilbert Wines board statement, 14 February 2007.

Further reading[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Mick Young
National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party
Succeeded by
Bob McMullan