Eric Abetz is a strong and effective advocate for his home state of Tasmania and for the Liberal values espoused by Sir Robert Menzies.
Eric was born on 25 January 1958 in Stuttgart, Germany. Coming to Tasmania with his parents and five siblings in 1961 on an assisted passage, his father worked alongside many other immigrant Tasmanians on the Hydro Schemes. Eric attended Moonah and Blackmans Bay Primary Schools, Taroona High School and Hobart Matriculation College. He then went on to study Arts and Law at the University of Tasmania.
While at University, Eric worked as a part-time taxi driver and farm hand. At University he was a member of the Student Representative Council for 5 years, president of the University Liberal Club and the first Tasmanian to be president of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation (ALSF) and life member.
After University, Eric worked in Hobart’s northern suburbs in a legal practice before entering into the firm Abetz, Curtis & Dutton which had 2 offices; one in Hobart and one in Kingston.
Joining the Liberal Party in 1976, Senator Abetz became the State President in 1989, a position that he held until his appointment to the Senate on the 22nd of February, 1994 to fill a casual Senate vacancy.
Since his appointment to the Senate, he has been re-elected in 1998, 2004, 2010 and 2016. In 2004, he gained the highest vote of any Senate candidate, both numerically and by percentage in Tasmanian State history and in 2016, he was elected as the first of twelve Tasmanian Senators.
In 2001, Eric was appointed by John Howard as the Special Minister of State, a role he held until 2006 when he was appointed as the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation and Manager of Government Business in the Senate.
Following the defeat of the Howard Government, Eric was elected by his colleagues to be the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 2007, a role he held until 2010 when he was elected as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate – the first Tasmanian Liberal to occupy the post.
On the election of the Abbott Government in 2013, Eric was appointed as the Leader of the Government in the Senate making him the most senior Tasmanian Minister in any Federal Government since Joseph Lyons was Prime Minister. In this role, Eric introduced legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to establish a Registered Organisations Commission, commenced the Trade Union Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission on Workplace Relations. He also oversaw the implementation of the Government’s employment programmes including jobactive and the Work for the Dole programme as well as other measures which would lay the foundation for the Government to create more than one million jobs in 5 years.
In 2015, Eric moved to the backbench where he has been an active policy contributor, leading the charge on many policy issues including smaller government, lower taxes, lower cost of living pressures, a more robust approach on foreign affairs as well as creating more job opportunities.
In 2018, Eric was elected by his peers as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.
Eric has fulfilled many roles in his time in Federal Parliament, they include:
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence (1998 - 2001)
- Special Minister of State (2001 - 2006)
- Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation (2006 - 2007)
- Manager of Government Business in the Senate (2007)
- Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (2007 - 2009)
- Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (2007 - 2010)
- Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations (2009 - 2013)
- Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (2010 - 2013)
- Minister for Employment (2013 - 2015)
- Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service (2013 - 2015)
- Leader of the Government in the Senate (2013 - 2015)
He has also held a number of positions on Parliamentary committees. They include:
- Chair of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee (1997 – 1998)
- Chair of the Joint Statutory Committee into Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund (1996-1997)
- Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee (2018 – ongoing)
He is currently a member of the following Committees:
- Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
- Joint Standing Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee
- Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security
- Joint Standing Committee on Law Enforcement
- Joint Standing Committee on Public Accounts and Audit
- Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth
- Senate Standing Committee on Privileges