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Statement by Special Minister of State, Mark Dreyfus

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THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP Special Minister of State


10 September 2013

Statement by Special Minister of State Mark Dreyfus

The incoming Abbott Government’s rescinding of the appointment of former Victorian premier Steve Bracks as consul-general in New York reveals its failure to understand the caretaker conventions that apply to Australian government.

This is a vindictive and petty attack on a man who has served the State of Victoria and our nation with distinction.

The caretaker conventions operate from the dissolution of the House of Representatives until the election result is clear or, in the event of a change of government, until the new government is appointed. (Cabinet Handbook, 2012)

In this election, the House of Representatives was dissolved on 5 August 2013 at 5.30pm - the signal for the start of the caretaker period. Mr Bracks was appointed on 16 May 2013, that is, more than 11 weeks before the start of the caretaker conventions.

Senator Brandis’s claim today that the Government should have consulted the Opposition about this appointment in April or early May is wrong.

The announcement in January of an intended election in September placed the Commonwealth in an analogous position to the Australian jurisdictions with fixed parliamentary terms (the ACT, Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory). No one would suggest that these jurisdictions are in permanent caretaker mode, even though the date of the election is already known.

There is no basis for the suggestion that months before an election is called the Opposition should be consulted about appointments.

When it came into office, the Federal Labor Government appointed a range of senior Liberal

party figures to national positions after their retirement from politics, most notably Brendan Nelson as Ambassador to NATO and Director of the Australian War Memorial and Peter Costello to the Future Fund.

There is no doubt Steve Bracks would have been an excellent representative of Australia as consul-general in New York.

Media contact: Gia Metherell 0477 366 575; Annie Williams 0428 040 522


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