Mike Kelly (Australian politician)

Colonel The Honourable
Dr Mike Kelly

Kelly at the Wagga RAAF Museum in 2008
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Eden-Monaro
Assumed office
2 July 2016
Preceded by Peter Hendy
In office
24 November 2007  7 September 2013
Preceded by Gary Nairn
Succeeded by Peter Hendy
Minister for Defence Materiel
In office
4 February 2013  7 September 2013
Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Kevin Rudd
Preceded by Jason Clare
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Personal details
Born (1960-02-23) 23 February 1960
Adelaide, South Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Rachelle Sakker-Kelly
Alma mater Macquarie University
University of New South Wales
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1987–2007
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars War in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Operation Restore Hope
International Force for East Timor
Iraq War
Awards Member of the Order of Australia

Colonel Michael Joseph "Mike" Kelly, AM (born 23 February 1960) is a former Australian Army lawyer and politician.

He was elected to the Australian House of Representatives as member for the Division of Eden-Monaro, New South Wales for the Australian Labor Party at the 2007 federal election. On election he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and in 2009 he was also appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Water. With the re-elected Labor Government's regional focus, Kelly was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in September 2010 and in December 2011 he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence in a reshuffle of the Government. In a third reshuffle in early 2013, Kelly replaced Jason Clare as Minister for Defence Materiel. Following the 2013 election, Kelly lost his seat to Liberal candidate Peter Hendy but regained the seat in 2016.

Background and early career

Kelly was educated at Asquith Boys High School,[1] and graduated from Macquarie University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. In 1997 he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of New South Wales. The research work undertaken for his doctoral dissertation has subsequently formed the basis for two books: Peace Operations: Tackling the Military, Legal and Policy Challenges (1997) and Restoring and Maintaining Order in Complex Peace Operations: The Search for a Legal Framework (1999).[2]

Military service

Kelly joined the Australian Army Legal Corps in 1987, and has expertise in peacekeeping missions and occupations.[3] He joined the military in 1987, served in Somalia, East Timor and Bosnia, and was among senior Australian military personnel in the Iraq War. In 1993 he was awarded the Chief of the General Staff Commendation, and in 1994 was made a Member of the Order of Australia, in recognition of his work in Somalia.[4] In June 2003 he inspected detention facilities in Iraq, including those at Abu Ghraib, and reported to the Australian Government on the treatment of detainees.[3] He finished his military career in 2007 with the rank of colonel as Director of Army Legal Services.[2]

Capital punishment

Colonel Mike Kelly (at right) during his deployment to Iraq in 2003.

Kelly was actively involved in two major capital case prosecutions while serving as a legal officer, that of Saddam Hussein[5] and, in Somalia, the warlord Hussan Gutaale Abdul.[6]

Gutaale, who among many other things had attacked and killed 16 aid workers and repeatedly driven an armoured car into emaciated refugees awaiting food distribution,[6] was arrested by an Australian patrol, held in a cage at Baidoa airport and later flown to Mogadishu to be held by US forces. He was found guilty of 31 counts of murder by a panel of three judges and sentenced to 20 years' hard labour.[6] Appeals were immediately made, with the prosecution demanding the death penalty mandatory for murder under the Somali Penal Code.[6]

A panel of six judges heard the appeal, upheld the previous verdicts and imposed the sentence of death to be carried out forthwith. "The court errupted in mayhem"[6] and Gutaale physically attacked Kelly. Eventually a group of engineers arrived, Gutaale was handcuffed and Kelly wrestled him along the roadway to his place of execution. Gutaale was handed over to the Somali police and executed on the spot.

Kelly summed up his thoughts:

Before I left Australia I had my own views on capital punishment. I was leaning fairly heavily towards the negative side. But the death of Gutaale was far more than an execution following a criminal conviction, it was more an act of communal self defence. If I was moved in any way, it was seeing Gutaale's mother in the court. She was concerned and upset, but having sat through countless statements from people who had suffered from what he had done and not just killings, but cruel killings and senseless brutality I knew too much of what he had done, and what he was capable of. I couldn't, have any sympathy for him ... I have absolutely no personal regrets about Gutaale's execution ... I'll have to admit that even when I saw him wallowing in his own blood and excrement I felt no remorse or pity, only relief. There was no other way of stopping him.[6]

Political career

In the 2007 federal election Kelly stood as the Labor candidate for the marginal New South Wales country electorate of Eden-Monaro, regarded as a "bellwether seat". He was criticised by his opponent, long-standing Liberal member Gary Nairn for not residing in the electorate prior to his nomination and for not facing a local preselection.[7] Nairn's chief of staff also publicly likened Kelly to a Belsen Nazi concentration camp guard for serving in the military in Iraq despite opposing the war itself.[8] The reference became a high-profile campaign issue, with claims that Nairn's office had subsequently promoted the claim using public rather than party funds.[9] The comment was subsequently withdrawn and an apology forwarded to media outlets and to Kelly.[10]

At the 2007 federal election on 24 November, Kelly won the seat with a 6.67% two-party-preferred swing,[11] and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support in the incoming Rudd Government and in 2009 he was also appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Water.

In 2008, after a prolonged and acrimonious debate within Australian veteran and political circles, Kelly formally acknowledged the existence of the 2nd D&E Platoon- a platoon of infantrymen that had been involved in a most successful ambush at Thua Tich on May 29th 1969 under the leadership of Corporal James Riddle. All trace of the platoon had disappeared from the records of the Vietnam War and had compromised the service histories of the 39 men who had served in it.[12]

After a redistribution changed the boundaries of Eden-Monaro, Kelly defeated Liberal candidate David Gazard in the 2010 federal election with a swing of 2%. As a result of the re-elected Labor Government's regional focus, Kelly was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in September 2010, but in December 2011 he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence in a reshuffle of the Government.[13]

In a third reshuffle in early 2013, Kelly replaced Jason Clare as Minister for Defence Materiel.[14]

Kelly supports same-sex marriage.[15][16]

In November 2012, Kelly was sued by Lynton Crosby for alleging on Twitter that Crosby had used push polling.[17] In June 2015, the case was discontinued by Crosby Textor after Kelly issued an apology which explained that his tweet had concerned a poll from 1995 in which Textor was involved, before Crosby Textor's business had commenced.[18]

At the 2013 federal election, Kelly lost his seat to the Liberal Party candidate Peter Hendy.

Kelly was preselected as the Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro in May 2015, and regained the Division of Eden-Monaro in the Australian federal election, 2016.

Honours and awards

Clasp Award Clasp/Notes Date awarded Reference
Member of the Order of Australia (AM) 13 June 1994 [4]
Australian Active Service Medal with 2 Clasps
Iraq Medal
Australian Service Medal with 1 Clasp
Defence Long Service Medal with one Rosette for 20–24 years service
Australian Defence Medal
United Nations Medal

Personal life

Kelly is married to Shelly and has one son.[2]

See also

Media related to Mike Kelly (politician) at Wikimedia Commons


  1. Findlay, Tracey (5 May 2010). "Asquith Boys High School set to celebrate its 50th". The Hornsby and Upper North Shore Advocate. News Limited. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 Biography, Australian Dept of Defence, accessed 2008-08-26.
  3. 1 2 Grimm, Nick (22 May 2007). "'Incompetent leadership' drives military lawyer to politics". The 7.30 Report. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  4. 1 2 "Member of the Order of Australia (AM)". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 13 June 1994. Citation: For exceptional service and devotion to duty with the Australian Army, particularly as a Legal Officer with Headquarters 1st Division and on Operations in Somalia.
  5. Australian, 27 July 2004
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Somalia to Eden-Monaro: How Mike Kelly fought a murderous warlord all the way to the firing squad". Canberra Times. 10 October 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2008.
  7. Coorey, Phillip (2007-05-01). "Army man parachuted into bellwether seat". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  8. Bradford, Gillian (2007-09-19). "Nairn under fire after staffer's Iraq comments". P.M. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  9. Marris, Sid (19 September 2007). "Staffer under fire over Nazi slur". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  10. O'Malley, Sandra (19 September 2007). "Minister's staffer withdraws Nazi slur". The Herald Sun. News Limited. Archived from the original on 7 July 2008. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  11. "House of Representatives NSW Division – Eden-Monaro". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
  12. "'Ghost platoon' laid to rest". ABC News. 9 July 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  13. http://pmtranscripts.dpmc.gov.au/release/transcript-18309
  14. http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/mike-kelly-biography/
  15. Shanahan, Dennis (15 August 2015). "Key marginal-seat Liberals oppose same-sex marriage changes". The Australian. Canberra. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  16. Knowlton, Cassidy (17 August 2015). "Which labor MPs have changed their minds on same-sex marriage". Crikey. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  17. Boffey, Daniel (12 May 2013). "David Cameron's head of strategy sues Australian minister for libel". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  18. Inman, Michael (1 July 2015). "Mike Kelly defamation case ends with apology to Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor". Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Gary Nairn
Member for Eden-Monaro
Succeeded by
Peter Hendy
Preceded by
Peter Hendy
Member for Eden-Monaro
Political offices
Preceded by
Jason Clare
Minister for Defence Materiel
Succeeded by
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