New Attorney-General to be sworn in tomorrow

February 3, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Mark Dreyfus QC entered parliament in 2007. Tomorrow will be sworn in as Australia’s Attorney-General.

Mark Dreyfus

Mark Dreyfus                                 photo: Henry Benjamin



In 2010  Dreyfus was appointed as Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency working closely with the Prime Minister on Cabinet matters and with the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to put a price on carbon, improve our energy efficiency and increase our use of renewable energy.

President of  The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Dr Danny Lamm and its executive director Peter Wertheim told J-Wire: “Mark Dreyfus QC is an excellent choice as Australia’s new Attorney-General and follows Sir Isaac Isaacs as the second Jewish Australian to hold that senior Cabinet position.  Mark has had a distinguished career in both the law and politics.  His new appointment has  been warmly welcomed by the legal profession, political commentators and the Australian Jewish community.  The ECAJ congratulates him on his appointment and wishes him well in his new role”.

Dr Colin Rubenstein, executive director of The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council added: “AIJAC warmly welcomes the appointment of Mark Dreyfus QC as the Commonwealth Attorney-General.  We know from personal experience, having worked in association with him for many years, that he  brings immense dedication,  talent and experience  to this important position.  We also welcome the promotion by the Gillard government of a number  of friends of the Australian Jewish community, including  Brendan O’Connor (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship), Mike Kelly (Minister for Defence Materiel), Jason Clare (adding the Cabinet Secretary role to Home Affairs and Justice Ministries), and new parliamentary secretaries Yvette D’Ath (Climate Change)  and Kelvin Thompson(Trade). As well, we congratulate another long-time friend,  Senator Stephen Conroy, on his election as government leader in the Senate.”

Mark Dreyfus issued a statement following his appointment.


He said: “I would like to thank Prime Minister Gillard for the honour of this appointment as first law officer of Australia.

Australia’s legal system should provide a framework that allows us to protect and care for all Australians, including our elderly, our sick, our injured, our workers, our new arrivals, our indigenous people, our young and our outspoken writers, artists and journalists.

The best Attorneys General are those who seek to ensure that Australian laws reflect our national values of fairness and equality of opportunity. I congratulate Nicola Roxon, Australia’s first female Attorney General, who has been a passionate advocate for these values.

I pay tribute to Nicola’s work, especially for her rock-solid resolve in introducing plain packaging laws for cigarettes, to help people pursue a healthier life.

This is no small achievement when you consider the might and wealth of those opposing this sensible initiative. Australia’s plain packaging laws are now recognised and lauded around the world.

I wish Nicola and her family all the best. There is no doubt the community will continue to be served extremely well by her talent, drive and experience.

I would also like to thank Climate Change Minister Greg Combet with whom I have worked closely to since 2010 to develop and implement Australia’s climate laws, the Clean Energy Future Plan.

Despite constant and unreasoned attack from many quarters, this Labor Government is successfully cutting carbon pollution to slow the damaging effects of climate change. The scheme has been designed to look after Australian families and jobs as we make the transition to a cleaner economy. Real climate action would stall and every cent of financial support for households and industries would be stripped away by a Coalition Government.

Labor’s climate laws, including the carbon price, are held in high esteem around the world by scientists, economists and by the great number of Australians who understand this enormous challenge cannot be avoided by any government. I am proud to have played a role in launching this reform.

Throughout my years of legal practice I have formed a deep belief in the principles of the rule of law, open, transparent and accessible justice, the right to a fair trial and the protection of an independent judiciary.

I will be guided by these principles in my new role as Attorney General.

As Minister for Emergency Management, I will oversee the large financial contribution made by the Gillard Labor Government to the administration of emergency services and disaster relief, to ensure communities devastated by the fires and floods across Australia this summer have food, water, shelter and decent support during the months and years of rebuilding their homes and lives.

This is a priority for the Gillard Government and one to which I will dedicate myself.

Born October 3, 1956, Perth, Western Australia.  Married, 3 children
·       2007 – Federal Member for Isaacs (Vic)
·       1999 – Appointed Queen’s Counsel
·       1987 – Joined the Victorian Bar
·       1985 – 1987  Ministerial Adviser to Victorian Attorney General Jim Kennan
·       1982 – 1985  Commercial Solicitor, Freehill, Hollingdale and Page
·       1982 – 1985  Volunteer Solicitor, Fitzroy Legal Service
·       1982 – Admitted to legal practice

Mark Dreyfus was elected to the House of Representatives as the Member for Isaacs in November 2007.
In 2010, he was appointed as Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; Innovation and Industry.

In his first term, Mark chaired the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and was a member of the House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Mark practised a barrister before entering Parliament. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1999 and noted as one of Victoria’s top defamation, commercial and planning lawyers. He appeared at trial and appellate level in cases involving company law, administrative law, constitutional law, freedom of information, employment law, town planning, personal injury, taxation, media ownership, intellectual property, heritage preservation, environmental law, building and construction, contract law and customs.

His practice included:
·       advising federal, state and local governments
·       appearing in a number of landmark cases in the High Court including the Stolen Generations litigation for which he won the 2001 Civil Justice Award (Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association)
·       advising Westpac, Telstra, NAB, ANZ, Coles Myer and other companies
·       representing the ABC, commercial TV networks, News Ltd, Fairfax and other media outlets in numerous defamation, free speech and freedom of information cases
·       appearing at Victorian Royal Commissions (Tricontinental inquiry; Metropolitan Ambulance Service inquiry)
·       representing and advising the Law Institute of Victoria
·       undertaking regular pro bono work representing community groups, Gun Control Australia, Public Transport Users Association, WWF, Friends of the Earth and the Environment Defender’s Office.

While practising, Mark was also Vice Chair of the Victorian Bar and a Director of the Law Council of Australia
Mark lived in the Northern Territory in the late 1970s working as a field officer for the Northern Land Council. He worked closely with traditional owners on the establishment of Kakadu National Park, land and sea claims, and mining negotiations. This early work as an advocate taught him the practical value of legal skills, informing his choice of a legal and political career.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife Deborah and three children.

Mark Dreyfus will be sworn in tomorrow.


18 Responses to “New Attorney-General to be sworn in tomorrow”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    The problem with the current anti-terrorism laws is that they are misused against people and situations that they don’t apply to, and/or used as an excuse to exercise power against civilians in such a way that relative freedom in a democratic country is hindered or curtailed unjustly. Since September 11, 2001 the anti-terrorism laws have been extended and changed considerably, and, as usual with human kind, the abuse of the system ends up countermanding the good it’s supposed to do. I know it’s hard to get the balance right. Perhaps that’s what Dreyfus is interested in doing. Looking at his track record, I’d say he was interested in much more than the Muslim community of Sydney. Also, as much as Islamic fundamentalists or Arab-haters of Israel have the limelight as far as terrorism is concerned, and are a growing and real threat, there are other kinds of terrorists as well, viz. neo-Nazis of all persuasions.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    Thank you, Michael. I’m glad you like my name.

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    I agree largely with what you have to say. I wasn’t seeking to mix the issues of the Australian Aboriginal people and Australia’s Jewish population/Israel. Of course, they are singularly different. My points are: no. 1 that many contributors to this site automatically expect a lot of any Jewish parliamentary appointment insofar as Jewish affairs are concerned – certainly those appointed should speak out and represent us as best they can, however they are there to represent more than the Jewish population, most especially someone with the role of Attorney General, and that needs to be considered. We sometimes judge and think too narrowly in this regard. Mind you, if there is ever a hint of anti-Semitism coming from Canberra, even from one individual politician, I’ll be there with bells on fighting it and publicising it. No. 2. Insofar as Israel is concerned, when we are using the words ‘friend of Israel’ and, again, wanting or expecting good support in this regard, I am merely saying that it’s all politics at the end of the day, and if our government can’t even genuinely and actively care for the Aboriginal population, they’re not going to be there in a real sense for Jews and Israel, or other groups if it comes to that – it will all depend on ‘politics’ and what’s best for them. So, being a ‘friend of’ doesn’t really come into it. That might sound cynical, something I’m not prone to, however, unfortunately, I think it is so.

    The notion of ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ support for Israel will wax and wane with the make-up of political parties over time, just as it does with the US, although of course the large Jewish population in America have more influence than we can ever bring to bear.

    Re the Aboriginals, which is an issue I care deeply about, it’s not just their living conditions that are a disgrace, it’s right across the board. The situation in regard to imprisonment of Aborigines in particular is atrocious, especially in regard to percentage of their population. (I’ve never heard of a white Australian, or any other kind of Australian, being imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, as a young Aboriginal was recently!) I know that this is far removed from Jewish issues, or problems other ethnicities might have. I only mention it as an example of how our government thinks and works. Under these circumstances, why should anyone believe it likely, or perhaps even appropriate, for an Australian Government to give consideration to Yom Kippur when choosing the election date?

    Don’t worry about your spelling. You’re articulate and erudite, and that’s more important.

  4. Michael says:

    I Read Mr Dreyfus wants to go softer on fighting terrorism or softening the anti- terror laws he is already fitting into Labor culture nicely i.e appeasing the growing and influential Muslim community in Sydney.

    • Shirlee says:

      As much as I’ll be happy to see the back of the ALP, I somehow don’t think the Libs will be much better.

  5. Shirlee says:

    This question in regards to Mark Dreyfus QC was asked on a FB group I am part of

    ” If so what level of attachment? Any Zionist history? If we consider Michael Danby as a 10 for Israel advocacy what score would you give Dreyfus?”

    I am not into ‘giving scores’ on people and never having having anything to do with him did a simple search and find he is well on a par with Michael Danby. He has also done a great deal of work within Australia with our indigenous people and also our disadvantaged communities

  6. Michael says:

    My apoligies Liat .
    I know a Rotem that is a guy and I know a Rotem
    That is a female
    Liat is a nice name ..

  7. Liat Nagar says:

    Nobody has mentioned the fact that Julia Gillard appears to be a genuine supporter of Israel. Chris Pyne, I believe, would never resort to sentimentality or schmaltz on any subject or in any situation – it’s not in his genes, I would suspect. And he certainly wouldn’t be comfortable smiling at babies! He might have been open (like most people, he can be open if it suits his agenda and beliefs) and articulate, however, passionate … ? More likely authoritative. Well, I was not there to see it for myself, so shall not insist on my own interpretation, however I’ve seen him speak often enough with authority and a kind of strained intensity on things that matter to him, and that’s not passion.

    As for Mark Dreyfus, he should be judged as a person and a politician in the whole, not ‘tested’ with a few questions of Jewish substance, then found totally lacking. Look at his background and his family history and see how he performs in the role he has to play which encompasses the whole Australian population, then have an opinion. Can we please stop making narrow negative judgements on fellow Jews for differences perceived, or do we want each Jew to act to a template designed by a few?

    It certainly is a disturbing turn of events, the changed stance Labor has on Israel, very disturbing. We can only seek to get to the bottom of it and protest it actively. Is it purely the changed demographic in some NSW Labor seats due to their increased Muslim population, or are there other factors? Was the previous Labor support superficial rather than genuine due to whatever political circumstance? Is the Liberal coalition support only good for as long as its politically viable, or bolstered also by genuine belief? Instead of ‘assuming’ who are friends and stalwarts, we should be considering the whys and wherefores. The Jews of Australia are small in number and a definite minority group, so we must be more aggressive about making others care. The Australian Aborigines are also a minority group, and even with all the attention now turned towards them, they are still treated disgracefully, and within the laws of this country. And as much as money is spent and platitudes voiced, who in politics really cares? If political Australia doesn’t really get its act together for the original and true Australians, do you really expect much better for the Jewish community or Israel?

    I would certainly hope, and expect, though that Jews would be considered with as much serious recognition as Muslim, Buddhist or other, and it’s up to us to fight for that if it’s not the case. Some of the more well-known Jewish figures in our history have certainly received due recognition as Jewish-Australian individuals, especially in the military and the sciences. So, I think that helps in the public consciousness, even though so many are ignorant or lacking curiosity in life. The only way to live a life where Jewish interests are acknowledged and actively dealt with is to live in Israel.

    Thank you for your response to my comments, Michael – just to let you know I’m a ‘she’, not a ‘he’. Liat is a Hebrew female name.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Dear Liat

      I believe that, when deling with a specific entity, say Jews in Australia, mixing up issues, such as Aboriginies, would not accentuate the points strictly relevant to the Jewish issues. I am sure that I do not need to point out that there are vast diferences between almost all aspects definig each group, consequently the nature of the problems involved. Indiference to Aboriginies is not determined by the same factors as specific policies that address the Middle East perpetual crisis and so on….
      Jewish “sensiblities” are not a excessive, mannic trait, they belong to the distinct area of religious and racist prejudice that has defined Wester history for some two thousand years. The main reason even Australian politicians would resort to what we cnsider to be anti Semitic – and that may include populist and strategic anti israel decisions by the same – is one hand to vent well seeded dislike of Jews in general and, on the other hand, to accomodate geopolitica considerations taht have direct sectional politica relevance to parliamentary survival. The mere fact that Aboriginies in Australia are still dwelling in abhorent comprehensive conditions ha snothing to do with the Gillard Govt. ellecting to lower its support to Israel. To this extent, in the final wash, Gillard, as a GOVERNMENT of the period, is decisively at the lower scale of assistence to Israel !!! In the same final analyssis, Julia Gillard comes out as good a supporter of Israel personally as HER OWN government revelas itself to be in all thos important fora and, of course, at home. To this extent this Gillard Govt. treats its Jews – as they are in their majority dedicated Zionists – as least as badly as it treats its own Aboriginies. It is only prejudice vs incompetence and indiference.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        I must apologise for the terrible spelling on the above. It was late and I was tired and rushing thoughts on paper…..Anyways, I hope the message was clear.

  8. Otto Waldmann says:

    Let’s be fair and accurate with certain facts. Labor has let us down on account of Israel BIG TIME. ALL Labor top politicians have abandoned the so called traditional Labor support for Israel. That inlcudes the man of the moment, Minister Dreyfus.
    As about Chris Pyne, let me tell you a short story.
    Some ten years ago Chris Pyne was invited to address the plenum of the NSWJBD. His addres was by far one of the best stances in support of Israel, open, articulate, passionate and even said it as a Catholic, not trying at all to coat it in some schmaltzy sentimentalism.
    Shortly afterwards came to the board Wayne Swan. He asked the Board to keep it a secret, because he did not want his fellow Labor comrades to know, that he is, deep down inside a supporter of Israel, but that should not be known publicly. He did make a public speach, mind you !!!! Down the road of true evidence of one’s allegiances, Wayne, the secret admirer, NEVER said boo about Israel and his Cabinet went the merry way pretty much against Israel. Compare that to what was expected and what those bloody conservatives, John Howard, Chris Pyne etc. have consistently demonstrated. That they are all the product of flamboyant rhetorical exploits is not at all something new or even worth commneting on, it is like observing and conveying that cows moooooooo. Big deal. What really matters is that, behind the oaccasional political nonsensical circus exchange one finds reliable friends or not. Well, so far, Pyne is a proven friend and don’t get me started with what’s going on on the other side of the fence……

  9. Michael says:

    Dreyfus was interviewed on 3AW today by Tom Elliot and was asked straight out what did he think about Gillard’s decision to hold the election on Yom Kippur.
    Dreyfus response was so what on any given day one or another minority would be inconvenienced the Jewish community can use the facilities of postal vote etc .
    Interesting response certainly different to Michael Danby’s view on this issue thats for sure.
    Liat is not wrong in what he says we are Australians first .However what irks me is if it was Ramadan she would never ever have dared offend the Muslims in Lakemba thats for sure. It just shows you taking into account things like the new Carr inspired Middle East labor policy how insignificant Jews are in Australia

  10. Liat Nagar says:

    For heaven’s sake! Such cant and spite behind these comments. And the man hasn’t even taken up his new office yet. Give it a rest and give him a go. Surely all of you must realise that you can’t assume each individual within a party has the same view as the party line, and the conundrum facing those working in politics is their own personal view, the official party view and the political scenario around them. It is somewhat complicated – I don’t remind you of this in the way of excuses, just as a reality to consider.

    In case you haven’t noticed there are other issues to consider as Australians living in Australia. I am a passionate advocate, and activist, for Israel and Jewish rights and justice; I am also an Australian. Chris Pyne may well be a good supporter of Israel, however he’s also a rigidly conservative person, smugly in love with the rightness of his own views, in fact almost unable to allow anybody with different views to finish a sentence in conversation. He lacks creativity and vision and is a Liberal of the old mould. I, for one, shudder at the thought of this lot being in power, because they don’t have a social conscience among them. Apart from Jewish issues, I also care about others disadvantaged in our society, the fact that there are many people who have to let their teeth rot because they can’t afford the dentist, the homeless, the increasingly stultifying political correctness and bureaucracy of systems in relation to employment and individuals with initiative but no money to back it up. I’m more than disappointed at what Labor has become, but the Liberals are no answer to the problems facing us as a people and a nation.

    Chris Pyne doesn’t go against the grain when standing up for Israel in public; he’s more than supported by Julie Bishop and Liberal Party policy. How on earth does that show moral courage? His views on Israel aren’t the sum of the man – there’s more to him than that. I mean, if he praised and supported Israel to the hilt, then ate his grandmother for breakfast, would that make him a good man whose shoes were hard to fill?!

    If you bother to read Mark Dreyfus’ biog. you’ll see that many years ago he worked as a volunteer solicitor for three years at Fitzroy Legal Aid. Whether that was a combination of work experience to get ahead and a social conscience, we can’t know; it is, however, an aspect of his working life that can be respected and taken into account as to some of the more positive qualities he might possess.
    How about shelving the cynicism and nurturing a bit of generosity of spirit.

  11. Otto Waldmann says:

    I wonder what kinda shoes was Dreyfus wearing during the last Labor job on Israel. I reckon very …………. dry feet.

  12. Michael says:

    I hope your right about that Shirlee may his reign be short lived .I would prefer see a Political Party that supports Israel back in power . I suspect because Dreyfus is Jewish he will go out of his way to be publicly very quiet on Israel so as to please his colleagues/ comrades and the masses and not rock the Arabist Labor party Boat.
    If only we had more politicians [ other than M Danby MP ] with the Moral courage ,
    back bone the likes of Lib MP’s Chris Pyne or Tony Smith who go against the grain and ‘publicly ‘ stand up for Israel.

    As a major Labor MP now lets see if Mr Dreyfus can fit in Pyne or Smiths shoes ?

    Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (09:42): From my earliest days in this House I have been a passionate supporter of the state of Israel

    Christopher Pyne was chairman of the Australia Israel Parliamentary group from 1996 to 2004.[4]

    • Shirlee says:

      That was a terrific speech given by Tony Smith. I am sure there are others on the left who feel like that.

      I think Gillard does but keeping her job was more important. Christopher Pyne is very good. He has offered to help the group in South Australia I am involved with.

      • Rami says:

        I am surprised That Mark Dreyfus asking Chris Pyne, a very stalwart and effective supporter of Israel, to apologise for making an allusion to the Labour Party being similar to a documentary showing the downfall of the Nazi government. When Mark himself has stated in 2011,that
        Tony Abbot is similar to Goebbles.

  13. Shirlee says:

    May he enjoy his short lived role!!

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