|Senator The Honourable
|Leader of the Government in the Senate|
21 September 2015
|Prime Minister||Malcolm Turnbull|
|Preceded by||Eric Abetz|
|Attorney-General of Australia|
18 September 2013
|Prime Minister||Tony Abbott
|Preceded by||Mark Dreyfus|
|Vice President of the Executive Council|
18 September 2013
|Prime Minister||Tony Abbott
|Preceded by||Tony Burke|
|Minister for the Arts|
18 September 2013 – 21 September 2015
|Prime Minister||Tony Abbott
|Preceded by||Tony Burke|
|Succeeded by||Mitch Fifield|
|Minister for the Arts and Sport|
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|
16 May 2000
|Preceded by||Warwick Parer|
22 June 1957 |
|Political party||Liberal Party|
|Liberal National Party|
|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 served as Attorney-General in the Abbott Government from 2013 to 2015, then the Turnbull Government thereafter. He is also Leader of the Government in the Senate and has been the Vice-President of the Executive Council during that period. He also held the post of Minister for the Arts and Sport from 23 January 2007 until the Howard Government lost the 2007 election.
- 1 Education and early career
- 2 Legal career
- 3 Parliamentary career
- 4 Ministerial career
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Education and early career
Brandis was born in Sydney and was brought up in the Inner-West suburb of Petersham. He attended Christian Brothers' High School, Lewisham before moving to Brisbane and attending Villanova College and the University of Queensland, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with First-Class Honours in 1978 and a Bachelor of Laws with First-Class Honours in 1980.
Following graduation, Brandis served as Associate to Justice Charles Sheahan of the Queensland Supreme Court. He was then elected a Commonwealth Scholar and obtained a Bachelor of Civil Law from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1983.
After a brief period as a solicitor in Brisbane, Brandis was called to the Queensland Bar in 1985 where he practiced until entering politics in 2000. Brandis developed a commercial practice with a particular emphasis on trade practices law. He appeared as junior counsel in the High Court of Australia in the equity case Warman v Dwyer. He was also the junior barrister for the plaintiff in the long running Multigroup Distribution Services v TNT Australia litigation in the Federal Court of Australia.
Brandis applied to be appointed Senior Counsel in the late 1990s, but was unsuccessful. Brandis applied again in 2006. He was not on the Queensland Bar Association's shortlist; however the Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul de Jersey, who had the power to make the ultimate determination, added Brandis' name to the list, and Brandis was appointed Senior Counsel in November 2006. This was controversial, since Brandis had not practiced at the bar since 2000. 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.
Brandis 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.
While at the Bar, Brandis 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, and lectured in jurisprudence at the University of Queensland from 1984 to 1991.
Brandis was first chosen by the Parliament of Queensland to fill a casual vacancy following the resignation of Senator the Honourable 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 as Chairman of the Senate's Children Overboard Inquiry.
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. 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. 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.
Brandis consistently opposed proposals for a bill of rights.
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.
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.
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.  
As Arts Minister, Brandis received significant criticism from the arts industry for a $105 million cut to the Australia Council for the Arts funding in the 2015-16 Australian Federal Budget. The money was reallocated to a new program, The National Program for Excellence in the Arts (NPEA). The NPEA in turn has been criticised by many artists and arts organisations for lacking the "arms-length" funding principles that have applied to the relationship between the government and the Australia Council since its inception in the 1970s. These principles have traditionally had bipartisan support. Brandis had been criticised previously for giving Melbourne classical music record label Melba Recordings a $275,000 grant outside of the usual funding and peer-assessment processes. Brandis's changes to funding arrangements, including the quarantining of the amount received by Australia's 28 major performing arts companies, are widely seen to disadvantage the small-to-medium arts sector and independent artists. Following Malcolm Turnbull's successful spill of the leadership of the Liberal party in September 2015, Brandis was replaced as arts minister by Mitch Fifield.
Freedom of Speech and Section 18C
The Abbott Government took a proposal to amend the Racial Discrimination Act to the 2013 Federal Election. The Government argued that the Act unduly restricted free speech in Australia, by making "insult" and "offence" the test for breach of the law. As Attorney-General, Brandis argued the case for amending the Keating Government's controversial Section 18C of the Act. In March 2013, Brandis released draft amendments for community consultation, and announced that the proposed changes would "strengthen the Act's protections against racism, while at the same time removing provisions which unreasonably limit freedom of speech." After community consultation, the Government was unable to secure support for changes to the Act from the Senate, and the Abbott Government shelved the proposal. The draft amendments had 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.
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. 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, and to legally ensure that "people do have a right to be bigots". Brandis labelled Bolt’s comments on mixed descent aboriginals, found by the Federal Court to be racial vilification, as ‘quite reasonable’, 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.
East Timor spying case
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. 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. 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.
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.
In February 2015, it was reported that more than $15,000 of taxpaper money was spent on a second custom-built bookshelf in Brandis' Parliamentary office to house Brandis' collection of books and law reports. There had earlier been a $7,000 taxpayer-funded bookcase purchased in 2010 to store $13,000 worth of tax-payer funded books, but a new bookcase was reportedly required because the 2010 version was too large to move to Senator Brandis' new office following the change of government.
Dealings with the Australian Human Rights Commission
In February 2015, Brandis made headlines when he questioned the independence and impartiality of the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, following the public release of a report by the Commission into children in detention which was critical of the Government. Brandis said he had lost confidence in Triggs and the Commission because in October 2014 she had given "inconsistent and evasive" evidence to Senate estimates when explaining the timing of her decision to hold the investigation into children in detention which resulted in the report. Brandis said that the "political impartiality" of the Commission had been "fatally compromised" because the Commission had only investigated the issue after the Liberal-National Coalition were elected to power, even though there had been a large number of people in detention under the previous Labor government. This, Brandis claimed, was a "catastrophic error of judgement".
Triggs defended her decision to commence the investigation in early 2014, saying that although the number of detainees had begun to fall while the Coalition were in Government, the length of time in detention had been rising.
Further controversy arose when Triggs told a Senate Estimates hearing that Brandis' departmental secretary had on 3 February 2015 asked her to resign, just prior to the public release of the Commission's report. Triggs said that she was told that she would be offered "other work with the government" if she resigned. Initially the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, denied that any offer of any other role was made to Triggs. However, Bishop conceded that an international role had been discussed with Triggs in early February, during a meeting in her office with the secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, Chris Moraitis.
Some government sources had suggested that Triggs had wanted to be "looked after" if she quit the Commission. However, Triggs said she "categorically denies any suggestion that the issue of a job offer and resignation came at [her] instigation". Triggs said at the Senate hearing that she considered the offer made to her a "disgraceful proposition".
These events prompted Mark Dreyfus, Labor's Shadow Attorney-General, to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police. Dreyfus said that an offer by Brandis to an independent statutory officer of an inducement to resign, with the object of affecting the leadership of the Commission to avoid political damage, may constitute corrupt or unlawful conduct. The Australian Senate also took up the matter, passing a motion to censure Brandis on 2 March.
Legal advice controversy
In October 2016, allegations were made by Australia's Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson SC, suggesting that Brandis attempted to block the Solicitor-General from providing legal advice to members of the Australian Government without first seeking and receiving the permission of the Attorney-General. Further allegations were made by Labor party ministers that Brandis had misled parliament on the issue, including those by the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, who challenged the independence of Brandis's office.
On 25 November 2016, The West Australian newspaper reported that the reason for Brandis issuing the direction was that Gleeson had provided advice on behalf of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in a High Court case over the collapse of The Bell Group in 1991. The Western Australian government had passed legislation (Bell Group Company’s Finalisation of Matters and Distribution of Proceeds Act 2015), elevating the Insurance Commission of WA in the queue of Bell Group creditors ahead of the ATO. In April 2015, the WA state government received an assurance from then federal Treasurer Joe Hockey that the Commonwealth would not intervene, however the ATO sought advice from Gleeson as its counsel that federal taxation law overrode the state legislation. The paper alleged that Brandis had told Gleeson not to run the argument, however it was still contained in the ATO's submission to the High Court, which subsequently unanimously rejected the WA government's case and struck down the Bell Act.
Prior to the 2016 federal election, Brandis appointed a Liberal Party donor and Brisbane lawyer, Theo Tavoularis, who had represented Brandis' son in court, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Later in December 2016, Brandis appointed two former Members of Parliament and members of the Liberal Party, who had been voted out at the 2016 federal election, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a 7-year term. Each role has a salary of over $200,000.
- "Tony Abbott's cabinet and outer ministry". smh.com.au. AAP. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
- Bolt, Andrew (25 February 2011). "What country is Brandis describing?". Herald Sun.
- Baker, Mark (6 July 2013). "The art of compromise". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media.
- "Seven in Running for upcoming High Court Vacancies". The Australian.
- Swain, Harriet (12 June 2008). "Scholarship funding cuts have appalled academics and students alike". The Independent. London. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
- "Senator the Hon George Brandis QC". aph.gov.au.
- "The World Today - Call for more transparency in senior counsel appointments". www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
- "Warman International Ltd v Dwyer  HCA 18; (1995) 182 CLR 544; (1995) 128 ALR 201; (1995) 69 ALJR 362 (23 March 1995)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- "Multigroup Distribution Services Pty Ltd v TNT Australia Pty Ltd  FCA 226 (12 March 2001)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- "Silk for senator angers lawyers". 2006-11-13. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
- Ackland, Richard (29 October 2016). "Solicitors-general support Justin Gleeson in argument with George Brandis". The Saturday Paper.
- "States divide over restoration of 'Queen's Counsel' title". The Australian. 14 June 2013.
- Brandis, Harley and Markwell, ed. (1984). Liberals face the future: essays on Australian liberalism. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
- Brandis, Thompson, and Harley, ed. (1986). Australian liberalism: the continuing vision. Melbourne: The Liberal Forum.
- George Brandis, 'Rawls on Liberty' (1989) 49-50 Bulleton of the Australian Society of Legal Philosophy 169.
- George Brandis, 'Interlocutory injunctions to restrain speech' (1992) 12 Queensland Lawyer 169.
- George Brandis, 'The Debate We Didn't Have to Have: The Proposal for an Australian Bill of Rights' (2008) 15 James Cook University Law Review 24.
- George Brandis, 'The Lawyer's Duty to Public Life' (Summer, 2011) New South Wales Bar Association, Bar News 118.
- "Australian Broadcasting Corporation v O'Neill  HCA 46; 80 ALJR 1672; 229 ALR 457 (28 September 2006)". Austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- "Australian Institute of Ethics and the Professions". Uq.edu.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- "Brandis defends Greens-Nazis comments". Lateline. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 31 October 2003. Retrieved 3 December 2007.
- Katharine Murphy. "Labor probes Dyson Heydon link to Liberal fundraiser – question time live". the Guardian.
- "Threat to stall same-sex reforms". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 June 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- "Australian Human Rights Commission". Hreoc.gov.au. 28 May 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- Harrison, Dan (26 September 2008). "New Libs' stance as senator supports same-sex reforms". The Age. Melbourne.
- "Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—General Law Reform) Act 2008". Comlaw.gov.au. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- Atkins, Dennis (10 December 2008). "George Brandis in battle for bill of rights". The Courier-Mail.
- "Department of the Parliamentary Library – Shadow Ministry". Aph.gov.au. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- Barnes, Greg (29 August 2012). "What sort of A-G would George Brandis make?". ABC. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
- Maley, Jacqueline (29 September 2013). "George Brandis pays back wedding expenses". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- Knott, Matthew (30 September 2013). "Michael Smith: Brandis honest, legit over wedding night expenses". Crikey. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- "George Brandis turns arts into 'political football' with $104.7m Australia Council cuts". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- "Private arts donors Neil Balnaves and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis accuse George Brandis of neglecting arts community, politicising funding". ABC News.
- "The regrettable rise of the arts bureaucrat". The Age.
- Stuart Glover (20 July 2015). "Writers and publishers are all at sea under Brandis and the NPEA". The Conversation.
- "The Australia Council must hold firm on 'arm's length' funding". The Conversation.
- Ben Eltham. "George Brandis and the arts funding crisis: one hell of a one-man show". The Guardian.
- Promise check: Repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act; www.abc.net.au; 8 May 2016
- Owens, Jared (26 March 2014). "George Brandis rejects concerns Holocaust denial will become lawful". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Danby, Michael (25 March 2014). "George Brandis has given Australia's racists a free rein". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Aston, Heath; Swan, Jonathan (26 March 2014). "ALP to rally migrants to fight race hate law changes". The Age. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Massola, James; Swan, Jonathan (25 March 2014). "George Brandis releases planned sweeping changes to race hate laws". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Aston, Heath; Massola, James. Tony Abbott government backdown on race law The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014
- Vasek, Lanai (29 September 2011). "Coalition signals bid to change race laws breached by columnist Andrew Bolt". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- 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.
- Alexander, Harriet (25 January 2013). "Crossin a victim of prejudice: Brandis". The Newcastle Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Langton, Marcia (22 March 2014). "Keeping Andrew Bolt in Business". The Saturday Paper. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- 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.
- Allard, Tom (5 March 2014). "George Brandis pleased with court ruling in East Timor spying case". The Age. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- AAP, AAP (4 March 2014). "International Court of Justice bans Australia from spying on East Timor". The Australian. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Deutsch, Anthony (14 March 2010). "Australia gas deal renews tension". Financial Times. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- 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.
- Taylor, Lenore (4 December 2013). "Timor-Leste spy case: Brandis claims 'ridiculous', says ambassador". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
- Knott, Matthew. "Second George Brandis bookcase costs $15,000 after first was too big to move". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
- Whyte, Sarah (24 February 2015). "'A fatal perception of bias': George Brandis admits he asked Gillian Triggs to resign'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Fact check: Triggs correct on the length of time children spent in detention". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Kenny, Mark (27 February 2015). "Julie Bishop admits role with Triggs was discussed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Gogarty, Brendan (26 February 2015). "Comment: did Brandis break the law in requesting Triggs' resignation?". SBS Australia. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Gordon, Michael (25 February 2015). "Labor refers offer to find another job for Gillian Triggs to federal police". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- "Attorney-General George Brandis censured over Gillian Triggs affair". The Age. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- Keany, Francis (5 October 2016). "Labor calls for resignation of George Brandis following public stoush with solicitor-general Justin Gleeson". ABC News. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
- Probyn, Andrew & Wright, Shane (25 November 2016). "Bell Group bombshell: How the State Government's secret $1 billion deal was torpedoed". The West Australian. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- Remeikis, Amy (2016-12-15). "George Brandis names former Liberal MPs for $200,000 tribunal role". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-12-15.
- Media related to George Brandis at Wikimedia Commons
- Summary of parliamentary voting for Senator George Brandis at TheyVoteForYou.org.au
|Minister for the Arts and Sport
as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
as Minister for Youth and Sport
|Attorney General of Australia
|Vice President of the Executive Council
|Minister for the Arts
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate