Michael Danby

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The Honourable
Michael Danby
Michael danby.grey suit.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Melbourne Ports
Assumed office
3 October 1998
Preceded by Clyde Holding
Personal details
Born (1955-02-16) 16 February 1955 (age 62)
Melbourne, Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Amanda Mendes da Costa
Children 2
Occupation Politician

Michael David Danby (born 16 February 1955) is an Australian politician who has been an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives since October 1998, representing the Division of Melbourne Ports, Victoria. Danby was briefly Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts, from March to September 2013.

Past experience[edit]

Danby was born in Melbourne and lives in Elwood, in his electorate. Danby attended Mount Scopus Memorial College and then enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University but left without completing the degree. He was President of the Melbourne University Student Union as well as President of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students. From 1980 to 1983 he was an Australian Army Reserve officer cadet with Officer Cadet Training Unit, 3 Training Group, based at Albert Park Reserve and Puckapunyal.

From 1979 to 1983 Danby was manager of Halmaag Art Galleries in Malvern. He was Assistant Private Secretary to Barry Cohen, a minister in the Hawke government 1983–84, and Editor of the Australia-Israel Review (published by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council) from 1986 to 1993. In 1985 he was senior vice-president of the International Youth Conference in Kingston, Jamaica. He was a ministerial adviser to Alan Griffiths, the Industry Minister in the Keating government, 1993–94. He was an industrial officer with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association 1994–96.

Political office[edit]

In 1990 Danby ran as the Labor candidate for the safe Liberal seat of Goldstein against Dr David Kemp. In 1997 he won a hotly disputed Labor Party preselection battle for the right to contest Melbourne Ports, where the sitting member, Clyde Holding, was retiring, defeating Tim Pallas, now the Victorian State Treasurer. He was elected in 1998 with 55 percent of the vote, and was reelected with slightly reduced majorities in 2001 and 2004. In 2007 he gained a 3% two-candidate-preferred (TCP) swing to Labor and in 2010 secured a further 1% TCP swing. Danby was outspoken in his criticism of the Labor Party's handling of the 2010 election, attacking the Western Sydney focus of the Labor Party Campaign.[1]

Electoral Matters Committee activities[edit]

Danby was a member of the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters from 1998 until 2010, and was Deputy Chair in 2006. He used this position to run a high-profile campaign against the Howard Government's changes[clarification needed] to Australian electoral law, which he argued restricted the ability of voters, particularly new voters, to enrol and vote. In an article in 2005, he wrote: "For 150 years Australia has been a world leader in progressive electoral reform... As a result Australia has one of the most open and accessible electoral systems in the world, and also a system with the highest reputation for integrity and transparency. Now, for the first time in living memory, an Australian government is going to wind the process back, for no good reason other than its own partisan advantage. They are going to make it more difficult for Australians to enrol and to vote."[2] Soon after the 2010 Federal Election Danby drew attention to the fact that for various reasons 1.4 million eligible Australians had not voted, and criticised the Government for not having acted during its previous term to ensure greater voter turn-out.[1]

Other parliamentary activities[edit]

From 2008 to 2010 Danby was chair of the Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Migration.[3] He was Chair of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade throughout the 42nd Parliament and was again chosen for this position in the 43rd parliament.[4] He is also Chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for the United States,[5] and the Parliamentary Group for Tibet.[6]

In 2008 and 2009 the Migration Committee completed three major reports.[7] These reports made numerous recommendations in relation to Australia's immigration detention system, several of which of have been adopted by the Australian Government, including the recommendation that 'detention debt' should be abolished.[8] Danby gained some media attention in late 2009 following his criticism of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's use of the term 'illegal immigrants' rather than 'asylum seekers'. Regarding use of the term 'illegal immigrants' he stated "I don't find these sort of populist expressions helpful in this debate."[9]

In July 2009 in his role as Chair of the Parliamentary Group for Tibet, Michael Danby led the first ever delegation of Australian MPs and Senators to Dharamshala,[10] India, the base of the Central Tibetan Administration. The group met with Dalai Lama, and other senior lamas, as well as numerous government Ministers. Michael Danby also gave a speech at the celebrations for the Dalai Lama's 74th birthday entitled 'Let freedom reign in Tibet'.[11] The Chinese Government reacted angrily to the delegation's visit, saying the visit constituted interference in China's internal affairs.[12]

From July 2011 to March 2013 Danby was chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade,[13] a role which saw him represent the Prime Minister at the inauguration of the new nation of South Sudan in 2011.[14]

Jewish representation[edit]

Danby was the only Jewish member of the Australian Parliament from 1998 to 2007, when Mark Dreyfus, also from the ALP, was elected. This was followed in 2010 with the election of Josh Frydenberg who is a Liberal. He has frequently spoken in support of Israel. Danby supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine question. In May 2011 he said: "I am a strong supporter of Israel. Obviously also a strong supporter of a peace process there and a two-state solution, and I have that dialogue with a friends from Israel when I get the opportunity to.[15]

In 2005 Danby was critical of a book by a Sydney Jewish atheist journalist, Antony Loewenstein, about the Australian Jewish community and its attitudes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a letter to the Australian Jewish News, Danby called on the book's publisher, Melbourne University Press, to "drop this whole disgusting project." He also called on the Jewish community to boycott the book. "I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence," he said.

Danby has been a long time campaigner for Government funding of schools at risk of facing terrorist or other violent attacks. In a speech to the House of Representatives he welcomed the Australian Government's $20 million funding program for schools at risk, and noted that a Sunday program that he had appeared on had sparked interest in the issue among many of his fellow MPs and Senators.[16]

Other activities[edit]

Danby was an outspoken supporter of the Australian National Academy of Music, opposing Arts Minister Peter Garrett's decision to cut funding for the institution, which is in his electorate, in October 2008.[17] Following a wide outcry the Government changed its decision to close the Academy and announced an additional $500,000 for the elite classical training centre.[18]

Danby helped organise the visit of the Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, to Australia for the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2009.[19] The visit drew condemnation from the Chinese Government, but Danby criticised the Chinese Government for describing Kadeer as a terrorist,[19] and argued that she was "a paradigm of non-violence"[20]

In September and October 2010 Michael Danby wrote a number of articles critical of ANU academic Hugh White's Quarterly Essay entitled "Power Shift: Australia’s Future between Washington and Beijing”. In an article published in the Wall Street Journal Asia Danby was highly critical of White’s contention that Australia should support US military evacuation of South China Sea, and other possible zones of conflict with China.[21]

In another article in The Australian (co-authored with foreign affairs experts Carl Ungerer and Peter Khalil), Danby warned against a 'Munich Moment' which would result if Australia followed White's advice and decided that the price of China's growing power was to cease "lecturing China about dissidents, Tibet or religious freedom".[22]

White responded to these articles in both The Australian and the Australian Financial Review. However it seems Danby had the last word in the debate, publishing another article in the Australian Financial Review, which attacked White's thesis as advocating "unprincipled appeasement". Danby also accused White of holding 'cold-blooded, Kissingerian views', 'treating China and the United States as if they were no more than a pair of traditional great-power rivals competing for territory or markets, like the Habsburg and Ottoman empires'.[23]

In a Parliamentary Speech in October 2010 Danby pointed to calls for reform from within the highest echelons of the Chinese Communist Party as reason not to follow White's approach.[24]

Danby is a member of the World Movement for Democracy's Steering Committee.[25]

2016 Greens preferences controversy[edit]

In recent electoral cycles Melbourne Ports has seen an increasing Green vote.[26] Danby has long been critical of the Greens due to their stance on Israel, which he characterises as "extreme." [27]

In the 2016 federal election campaign, Danby criticised Greens candidate Steph Hodgkins-May for pulling out of a local debate after discovering it was co-hosted by Zionism Victoria; Hodgins-May was critical of the organisation's political views, specifically its dismissive attitude of the United Nations, her former employer. [28] In response Danby called her an "obnoxious bigot" and called on Greens leader Richard Di Natale to sack her. [29] The debate ultimately went ahead between Danby and Liberal candidate Owen Guest, with Hodgins-May represented by an empty chair. [30]

During the campaign Danby was discovered distributing how-to-vote cards which preferenced the Greens below the Liberals, in contravention of official Labor Party cards, which preferenced the Liberals below the Greens. [31][32][33] The Greens unequivocally preferenced Labor.[34]

Danby previously drew criticism in the 2013 federal election for distributing how-to-vote cards which placed the Australian Sex Party (deregistered by the AEC in 2017) last when distributed to Jewish Orthodox voters, in contravention of official Labor Party cards which placed Family First (deregistered by the AEC in 2017) last.[35][36]


In February 2008 he and his longtime partner, barrister Amanda Mendes da Costa, were married at Parliament House, Canberra, the first Jewish wedding held in the building.[37]

Danby had an earlier marriage which ended in divorce.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Australia's great democratic deficit – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  2. ^ Electoral Law – Michael Danby
  3. ^ Joint Standing Committee on Migration – Members
  4. ^ Joint Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee – Membership
  5. ^ http://www.oecd.org/document/0/0,3343,en_2649_18532957_42083008_1_1_1_1,00.html
  6. ^ China tells MP to avoid Tibet rally
  7. ^ Joint Standing Committee on Migration: Immigration detention in Australia: Report 3
  8. ^ Detention debt regime to be scrapped
  9. ^ Labor MP criticises Rudd on asylum seekers, ABC news, 20 October 2009
  10. ^ Australian MP group to visit Dalai Lama
  11. ^ Let freedom reign in Tibet – Michael Danby
  12. ^ AM – Chinese angry about Australian politicians meeting the Dalai Lama 03/07/2009
  13. ^ Joint Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee – Membership
  14. ^ South Sudan: “Oh Yay!” – Michael Danby
  15. ^ (House of Representatives Hansard, 23 May 2011)
  16. ^ http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/2008-05-14/0008/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
  17. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/archive/2008/11/26/default_14.htm
  18. ^ Media releases and speeches 1996 – 2007: Minister for the Environment
  19. ^ a b PM – Rebiya Kadeer granted visa with help from Fed Govt MP 30/07/2009
  20. ^ Dalai Lama sends message of support to Kadeer – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  21. ^ Danby & Ungerer: Australia's Munich Moment – WSJ.com
  22. ^ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/no-winners-by-appeasing-china/story-e6frg6zo-1225924276179
  23. ^ Australian Financial Review 30 September 2010 p67
  24. ^ http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansardr/2010-10-19/0104/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
  25. ^ Michael Danby | World Movement for Democracy
  26. ^ Samantha Hutchinson (2012-07-20). "ALP calling time on Michael Danby as election threat looms". The Australian. Retrieved 2017-07-31. 
  27. ^ "Danby declares war on the Greens". Australian Jewish News. Associated Press. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  28. ^ Rob Harris (2016-06-10). "Greens candidate boycotts forum hosted by Zionism Victoria". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  29. ^ Josh Butler (2016-06-28). "Labor MP Michael Danby Calls Female Greens Opponent 'Obnoxious Bigot'". Huffington Post Australia. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  30. ^ Peter Kohn (2016-06-23). "Danby, Guest trade blows at election debate". Australian Jewish News. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  31. ^ Richard Willingham (2016-06-16). "Election 2016: Labor's Michael Danby defies party on Greens preferences". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  32. ^ Peter Kohn (2016-06-23). "Danby, Guest trade blows at election debate". Australian Jewish News. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  33. ^ "Greens ahead of Danby in Port Melbourne". Sky News. 2016-06-27. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  34. ^ Joshua Levi (2016-06-30). "Messy campaign for Melbourne Ports". Australian Jewish News. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  35. ^ Oliver Milman (2013-08-28). "Labor MP creates second how-to-vote card 'to avoid upsetting Jewish voters'". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  36. ^ Serkan Ozturk (2013-08-30). "Danby in hot water over How To Vote cards". Star Observer. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  37. ^ Parliament House to host its first Jewish wedding

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Clyde Holding
Member for Melbourne Ports