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George Brandis names former Liberal MPs for $200,000 tribunal role

Posted by on 18/07/2018

Attorney-General George Brandis has previously come under fire for appointments he has made. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTwo Liberal MPs who lost their seats at the federal election and a former Labor speaker are among those tapped for plum positions in George Brandis’s latest round of appointments.

Former Liberal MPs Russell Matheson and Andrew Nikolic, who were voted out at the 2016 elections, former Labor Speaker Anna Burke and retired Labor Senator Linda Kirk were among the 17 appointees to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Both Mr Matheson, who lost the seat of Macarthur after two terms, and Mr Nikolic, who lost the seat of Bass after just three years and Ms Burke, who retired ahead of the July poll have been appointed as full-time members for a seven-year term. These roles attract a salary of at least $200,000.

Ms Kirk, a QC and deputy dean of the Australia National University College of Law, has been appointed as a senior member on a part-time basis for seven years.

Salary for roles on the AAT, which reviews the decisions of government ministers, departments and agencies, range from $180,000 to $360,000.

Senator Brandis has made more than 100 appointments and reappointments to the tribunal this year, most notably naming 76 people in the days before the government entered its caretaker period, ahead of the last election.

Among those was Liberal Party donor and Brisbane lawyer Theo Tavoularis, who Buzzfeed reported had also represented Senator Brandis’s son in court, Scott Morrison’s former chief of staff Ann Brandon-Baker, failed Liberal preselection candidate Denis Dragovic, former LNP state MP Saxon Rice and a former Queensland Director-General, John Sosso.

The rash of appointments drew the ire of the Opposition, with the process leading up to the announcement dominating a Senate estimates hearing featuring Senator Brandis’s department.

Deputy secretary Iain Anderson told the Senate committee the 76 positions named before the election had not been advertised or subjected to a selection panel, but Senator Brandis said political affiliation was not a driving factor in the decisions.

Political appointments are always considered controversial, with both sides of politics accusing the other of a “jobs for the boys” mentality.

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