In 2018, Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck returned to parliament in true revolving doors fashion after a 14 month stint as chairman for peak gambling lobbyists Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA). Colbeck is also chairman of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation who have been pivotal in recently delaying a new mandatory pregnancy warning label for all alcohol products in the interest of alcohol industry lobbyists.
- Chairman of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.
- Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians since 2019.
- Minister for Youth and Sport since 2019.
Chairman of Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) from 2016 to 2018.
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry from 2004 to 2006.
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration from 2006 to 2007.
- Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture from 2013 to 2015.
- Minister for Tourism and International Education from 2015 to 2016.
- Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment from 2015 to 2016.
- Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources from 2018 to 2019.
Parliamentary party positions
- Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health from 2007 to 2008.
- Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry from 2008 to 2010.
- Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry from 2010 to 2013.
- Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Industry and Science from 2010 to 2013.
- Member of the Liberal Party from 1990.
- Delegate to the Liberal Party State Council from 1991.
- Member of the Liberal Party State Executive (Tas.) from 1992.
- Member of the Liberal Party Policy Advisory Committee (Tas.) from 1993 to 1997.
- Member of the Liberal Party Federal Executive from 2000 to 2002.
- President of the Liberal Party State Branch (Tas.) from 2000 to 2002.
Richard Colbeck was appointed chairman of Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) in December 2016; the same month former Labor Senator Stephen Conroy was appointed executive director.
- RWA represents and is backed by bookmakers such as James Packer’s CrownBet, Sportsbet, Betfair, Unibet, and Bet365. Kevin Rudd labelled the RWA as a “front” for the expansion of the gambling industry partly funded by James Packer.
RWA released a statement announcing Colbeck’s retirement from the gambling lobby in February 2018 as he returned to parliament.
After the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation resisted against the redesign of industry-wide pregnancy warning labels on all alcohol products proposed by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), it was revealed that Colbeck met twice with industry alcohol lobbyists, including a major political donor, just weeks earlier.
- Colbeck appeared before parliament to justify the delay noting that a primary “reason for failing to roll out a recommended label with red warning text was that it would not be noticeable enough on a red bottle”. Rhetoric which adhered to the line of argument put forward by Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) who have opposed the new design on an unfounded claim that the “use of red lettering would make the new label more expensive to print, saying the change would cost manufacturers $400 million, and objects to the use of the term ‘health warning’”.
- The new design from FSANZ serves as a measure to tackle Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); a preventative disability resulting from prenatal alcohol consumption which effects almost 5% of births in Australia annually.
Defended then assistant health minister Fiona Nash and her chief of staff Alastair Furnival over Furnival’s links to lobbyist group for the junk food sector Australian Public Affairs (APA) through his marriage to Tracey Cain; the group’s sole director.
Voted ‘strongly against’ increasing restrictions on gambling.
Voted ‘very strongly against’ restricting donations to political parties and stopping former ministers from taking lobbying positions within five years.
Lobbied against seafood labelling laws intended to promote transparency regarding the country of origin of seafood products purchased throughout all retail sectors of Australia.
As Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry, Colbeck introduced an Amendment to the Fisheries Management Act in 2012 which placed a temporary ban on factory freezer vessels (super trawlers) more than 130 metres in length to operate in the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ). The ban was lifted in April 2015.
- Campaigners and politicians alike including Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson have criticised Colbeck for not addressing the full scope of the issue, as the temporary ban “would do little to protect Australian fisheries, since many factory freezer trawlers were under 130 metres in length.”
Oversaw the introduction of the 95m-long ‘Geelong Star’ super trawler into the AFZ in 2015. This occurred around the same time the status of the Fisheries Management Amendment (Super Trawlers) Regulation was no longer in force. Despite reports from a scientific panel to the Government “that there would probably be some seal and dolphin deaths in a new venture”, Colbeck proceeded with the Geelong Star arrangement “to begin fishing for a 16,500-tonne quota” throughout the Australian coast spanning from Queensland to Western Australia.
- Colbeck later refused a fishery management review into the conflict of interest tied to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and the Geelong Star, labelling it a “sideshow”. The AFMA are responsible for determining fishing quotas for vessels operating in the AFZ, with one member of the panel, Gerry Green, also the owner of Seafish Tasmania, the company which hired the Geelong Star.
- Andrew Wilkie’s issued statement on the matter can be found here, and Senator Whish-Wilson’s here.
01.12.2014 – Welcomed the 10% increase of the total catch limit of Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT), the highest in two decades. Colbeck’s praise was echoed by peak industry lobbyists such as “Andrew Wilkinson, General Manager of Tony’s Tuna Pty Ltd and member of the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, agreed that the increase in catch was recognition of industry’s and government’s commitment to ensuring a healthy supply of SBT and a strong industry.”
24.02.2015 – Linked to a $320,000 donation to the Liberal Party from the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Association, “$250,000 of which was made before the  federal election”. The donations came at a time when discussions re-emerged to introduce a stereo video system to monitor Australia’s share of the $1 billion quota of the tuna fishery, an implementation opposed by bluefin tuna lobbyists. Colbeck initially discredited claims he discussed the donation with industry lobbyists, only to later backflip before the committee saying “‘the matter of a donation from the southern bluefin tuna association to the Liberal Party was discussed at one of the meetings I was at.’”
Complicit in the AFMA’s removal of dissenting voices such as the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group (SPFRAG). The SPFRAG represented “the only avenue for environmental and recreational fishing representatives to be properly informed about what was occurring in the [Small Pelagic Fishery] and also to have a say in its governance.” Without these regulatory bodies, the AFMA are able to easily navigate around scientific evidence such as “that night-time fishing increases the risks of dolphin deaths” and consider lifting bans on fishing at night.
- In relation to Colbeck, “AFMA has shut down their dissenting voices – and this is consistent with Senator Colbeck’s attempts to block them from having the two-way transparency afforded by a Senate Inquiry.”
Luke Stacey was a contributing researcher and editor for the Secret Rich List and Revolving Doors series on Michael West Media. Luke studied journalism at University of Technology, Sydney, has worked in the film industry and studied screenwriting at the New York Film Academy in New York. You can follow Luke on Twitter