Nick Bolkus

Nick Bolkus
Senator for South Australia
In office
1 July 1981 – 30 June 2005
Personal details
Born (1950-07-17) 17 July 1950 (age 69)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Political partyLabor
Spouse(s)Mary Patetsos
ResidenceHenley Beach, South Australia
Alma materUniversity of Adelaide

Nick Bolkus (born 17 July 1950) is a former Australian Labor Party politician. He was a member of the Senate from July 1981 to 2005, representing the state of South Australia.

Early career

Bolkus was born in Adelaide and was educated at Adelaide High School and the University of Adelaide. He was very briefly a lawyer in 1974 and 1975. He moved into political advising and became a research officer for a number of Australian Labor Party (ALP) members including Clyde Cameron. He unsuccessfully ran for the district of Torrens at the 1975 state election and for the Senate at the 1977 federal election.[citation needed] He entered politics as a Senator for South Australia following the 1980 Australian federal election.[1]

Parliamentary career

Bolkus stayed on the back bench for his first seven years in Parliament. Bolkus was eventually promoted to the outer Ministry as Minister for Consumer Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer for Prices (1988–90). Bolkus became a Cabinet Minister for five years, as Minister for Administrative Services (1990–93) (a Ministry which was later relegated out of Cabinet), and then Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs (1993–96).

After the end of the Keating Government (due to its election defeat in 1996), Bolkus was a member of the Opposition Shadow Ministry from March 1996 to November 2001. He remained on the back bench for the final four years of his career in Parliament.

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Assisting for Prices 1988–90

Bolkus was first elected to the Federal Ministry in February 1988 as Minister for Consumer Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer for Prices.[2] In this portfolio he introduced world leading legislation to protect the privacy of individuals in their relationships with credit data agencies. He was also responsible for introducing the Banking Ombudsman, streamlining National Uniform Food Laws, introducing a series of Codes of Conduct protecting consumers, and initiating enquiries into the pricing practices of the computer software, music and book industries.

Minister for Administrative Services 1990–93

Bolkus was appointed to Cabinet in 1990 as Minister for Administrative Services, a portfolio which he held until the 1993 election.[3] In this portfolio he introduced comprehensive legislation for the disclosure of political donations. He was also responsible for the transition of the Department to a commercialised, corporatised and competitive body. Bolkus drove a structural reform agenda which radically reformed the supply of services to Government. The Agenda commercialised much of the Government's construction and supply facilities. It was managed without a day lost to industrial action. At the same time, he used the extensive reach of a department which had responsibility in such areas as Commonwealth property ownership, construction, purchasing and the Australian Electoral Commission, to pursue the government's environmental and industry policy agenda, particularly in the Information Technology area.

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs 1993–96

In 1993 Bolkus was appointed Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs.[4] He held these portfolios until the 1996 election. In these positions, Bolkus drove a reform agenda which aimed at making both the Department's and Government's immigration, refugee and multicultural policies more relevant to Australia's social, economic and humanitarian needs. Most importantly, he drove a major restructure of the Department.

Major reforms were implemented in Australia's economic migration infrastructure.

The achievements of this 3-year period include a radical restructure of both the Department and policy, including:

  • rewriting Australia's Migration laws
  • recognition of the importance of temporary business entry through initiatives such as the APEC card "invisible visa" entry for Tourism, and the Business "life of passport" visa
  • fundamental restructuring of the business migration program
  • the first review of the Australian Citizenship Act since its 1948 introduction
  • the establishment of the Refugee Review Tribunal
  • the revision of Australia's Oath and Allegiance by removing reference to the Queen
  • the introduction of a major Citizenship Promotion program
  • increase in the annual migration and refugee programs

Bolkus has been an advocate of a non-discriminatory migration program and multiculturalism. These issues were among his main reasons for joining the Australian Labor Party in 1966. In Government, Senator Bolkus significantly progressed Australia's "Productive Diversity" policies which encourage awareness and deployment of the economic benefits of Australia's multicultural society.

Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice

Nick Bolkus was the Shadow Attorney-General and Minister for Justice from 1996 to the 1998 Federal election.[5] He played a leading role in issues such as Constitutional change towards an Australian Republic, and access to Justice. He also carried the debate for the Opposition on the Wik Native Title legislation, the longest Committee debate in the Senate's history.

Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage

Bolkus was appointed to this portfolio after the 1998 election.[6] He came to it after years of Ministerial involvement in environmental issues, including as Minister for Administrative Services, and through the establishment of an Environmental Futures team with the task of "Greening" the Government's construction, energy use and purchasing policies. As Shadow Minister he formulated policies to address Australia's major environmental challenges, including water, salinity and greenhouse gas emissions and carbon trading.

Parliamentary committee experience

Bolkus has served on and Chaired a number of Parliamentary Committees in the areas of Legal and Constitutional Affairs,Foreign Affairs, Industrial Relations, Corporation Legislation, Indigenous Affairs, and Human Rights[7] He was Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.[8] He represented the Australian Parliament at the 1983 and 1984 Constitutional Conventions and at the 41st General Assembly of the United Nations in 1986.[9]

Other issues

In 2003, Bolkus was accused and personally attacked by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott for failing to declare donations made by Dante Tan. Tan was not found guilty of any criminal offence in either the Philippines or Australia.[10] Abbott accused Bolkus of having breached the legal requirements of accepting a political donation.[11] Abbott also accused Bolkus of money laundering,[12] however it became clear that the matter was in fact not a breach of any regulations regarding political donations.[citation needed] Bolkus successfully sued Nationwide News for defamation in the District Court of South Australia in Bolkus v Nationwide News.[13]

Post-Parliamentary Career


Until 2015, Bolkus was a partner at Bespoke Approach, a corporate advisory firm.[14] Bespoke Approach is now owned by corporate and political advisor Ian Smith and former Senior Vice-President at News Corporation Andrew Butcher.[15]

Bolkus also offers political lobbying services under the names Kazaru and Nick Bolkus. Clients represented to the SA Parliament and SA government since 2016 include: SA Power Networks, Daycorp, D and R DeRuvo and sons, Fyfe, SSE Australia, Bedford Group, Walker Corporation, Lincoln Lakes Development Company, Kelaray Pty Ltd, Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers Ltd, The Stehr Group, Tri-star Petroleum, Celsus/SA Health Partnership, Karadeniz Holdings, The Belgrave Group, RH & DJ Bichard Superfund.[16]

Directorships and advisory positions

Nick Bolkus is the Chairman of Directors of Nuturf Australia Pty Ltd,[17] and Envirogreen Pty Ltd.][18] and Director of Wondertreat Aust Pty Ltd.and Ecofertiliser Pty Ltd.[19]

He is Adviser to the Australian Hokkien Association.[20]

He is also currently a Director of the industry based Australian Fisheries Academy.[21]


  1. ^ Parliamentary Handbook – Supplement to biographical information in 29th edition on former Senators and Members of the 40th Parliament
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  8. ^;query=Id%3A%22handbook%2Fallmps%2Fxe4%22;querytype=;rec=0
  9. ^
  10. ^ AM: Failure to declare donation an honest mistake: Nick Bolkus, ABC Local Radio, 25 June 2003.
  11. ^ Riley, Mark: Now Labor under fire over funds given on the quiet, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 2003.
  12. ^ AFP may investigate Senator Bolkus, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 June 2003.
  13. ^ Bolkus vs Nationwide News [2005] SADC 138, District Court (SA, Australia).
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Cabinet, Department of the Premier and (1 January 2003). "Register of Lobbyists". Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  17. ^ [
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Peter Staples
Minister for Consumer Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael Tate
Preceded by
Gerry Hand
Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Succeeded by
Philip Ruddock

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