Mal Brough; The Bombastic One


Malcolm Thomas “Mal” Brough was born 29 December 1961 in Brisbane, Queensland to Keith and Mary Brough. [1]

Keith Brough MBE was struck down by polio at the age of four spending the next four years fighting for is life in hospital. “While others may have felt sorry for themselves and been deterred from achieving, dad has never once bemoaned his condition nor looked upon it as a disability. In fact, he has always been thankful. He has been thankful for how lucky he is and he has undertaken a lifetime of service to those who are less fortunate.” [2]

Mal’s mother, Mary nee Waldron, is the daughter of Tom and Violet Bowden now living in an aged care facility in Alice Springs. They have been married for 74 years. Violet, one of nine children, never got to know her father but has told the story of a birthday during her childhood when a black man visited briefly, and was identified as her missing dad. [3]

David Jull, then member for Bowman, in a condolence speech for Jim Killen commented that Jim Killen would go out there (Rocklea) with his entourage and he would be accompanied by the Slacks Creek Band. The Slacks Creek Band was led by Mr Keith Brough, who is the father of the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in this place. [4]

 Alderman Glen Shailer (Mayor of Logan City) presents the keys for the new Logan City SES headquarters to Keith Brough: Photo, Logan City Council

Alderman Glen Shailer (Mayor of Logan City) presents the keys for the new Logan City SES headquarters to Keith Brough: Photo, Logan City Council

Keith and Mary were honoured for their service to the community by the Logan City Council with a place on the Wall of Acclaim. Keith and Mary were active members of numerous local community organisations from 1964 including the Bush Fire Brigade, Slacks Creek Progress Association, St Mark’s Church and the State Emergency Service. In 1984 Keith was awarded an MBE in recognition of his community service and in 1988 a National Medal recognising his long service to the community in times of emergency and national disaster. [5]

Keith and Mary had three children. In no order they were a daughter Carol, who identifies as Aboriginal [9], Malcolm and Rod. [2] Rod is a past host of “Family Feud” and, in 2007, a Channel 7 News Presenter. They grew up with their parents in a little fibro house at Slacks Creek, on Brisbane’s southern outskirts. At one stage, his father grew vegetables to support the family – no mean feat considering he had been crippled by polio and had to slide around the garden on his backside. [6]

Tom Waldron was a part of his grand-children’s life. Rod Brough has said that he got his love of rugby league from his grandfather, now 94, who took him to his first game; the 1965 Brisbane grand final where Redcliffe, led by the great Artie Beetson, was victorious over Norths. [6]


There is little information about Mal Brough’s education available on the internet. The only definite fact is that he records “Monash University” under ‘Education on his Parliamentary Biography page. This would have been as a part of his Army service as he joined up aged 18 in 1979. [7]

It could be that much of Mal’s early learning was outside the normal curriculum.

“From a young age, I was taught that the keys to a successful business were long hours and hard work. I do not believe that recipe has changed to this day. Our family business required the combined efforts of all its members. Although my recollection of being the star performer may not be shared by my parents, or by my brother and sister for that matter, I can assure you that I will always be grateful for the opportunity and the insight that that business provided to me. ” [2]

His family has many years involvement with the Liberal Party, though he has only been active since leaving the military. [13]

” You’re a product of your upbringing, you’re a product of your family and I am a product of mine.” [3]


While in the Army, Mal married Sue and “raised our three children in the railway towns of Mooloolah and Glass House while running a small business that operated across the coast. Both Sue and I have been actively involved in a number of community groups while living on the Sunshine Coast revolving around our family and sporting life. Now empty-nesters and grandparents to two gorgeous grandchildren, we reside in Alexandra Headland and love nothing more than heading to the beach for a swim, driving up to our picturesque hinterland for lunch or spending time with family.” [8]

Mal and Sue Brough

Mal and Sue Brough

When Brough left the army, he and his wife, Sue, were already the parents of a baby boy, Thomas. Shortly after, their second son was stillborn. “I think parents never get over it, when it happens to them,” he says. “I think if they can find answers to – not just SIDS but also stillbirth – then that gives them reason and understanding. My brother lost his son, from asthma. The same age as my [firstborn] son, who’s now 20. Brough and his brother Rob are now involved in supporting the work of the SIDS Foundation.” [3]

TWICE a week, in the grounds of Parliament House, a motley bunch of blokes gathers in the dawn chill for a scratch game of touch footy. Mal Brough, who captains the parliamentary rugby team, organises the games and brings the witches’ hats. Robert McClelland, Labor’s defence spokesman, is the vice-captain. “In his case, the role was awarded on the grounds of playing ability,” says McClelland. “In my case, I suspect it was on the basis of party affiliation.” In the games, Brough regularly tackles his cabinet colleague Joe Hockey, who in rugby terms at least is well out of the compact Brough’s weight division. Size isn’t everything, however, and Hockey hobbled away with a severely damaged ankle from one recent play in which both frontbenchers went up for a high kick. [3]

Biffs and bingles abound in Brough’s considerable recreational sporting career. Last year, he disappeared from the airwaves for a short period after incurring a black eye in a rugby game in Cape York, in the territory of his friend Noel Pearson. [3]

And his storm out from the Government versus Press Gallery cricket match in 2001 is still a matter for amusement among Canberra journalists. Brough, then a new minister, was given out lbw for 14 by the then Press Gallery president Malcolm Farr, of The Daily Telegraph. An incandescent Brough flung off pads and gloves, stormed off the field and took off in his car, complaining that he “always” suffered bad umpiring at such events. He reappeared towards the end of the game, showered and sheepish. [3]

Nick Bryant of the Monthly tells of a slightly different ending to this story. At first, Brough refused to leave the wicket. Phil Coorey, the wicketkeeper, feared he might end up with a Gray–Nicolls embedded in his head. When Brough finally stormed off, he hurled invective from the boundary. “He threw his bat and pads to the ground and demanded his wife follow him to their car,” Farr later recalled, and “he took off in that car at great speed”. Brough returned about 30 minutes later, and reportedly made the startling announcement that a bit of aggro was good for the sex life. [9]

Brough did not enhance his reputation for sportsmanship at a return fixture. The Pollies were a player down, and Brough’s young son helped out as a substitute fielder. When the youngster fumbled a ball, his father’s torrent of criticism made onlookers wince. Farr believes Brough’s unsporting behaviour is characteristic: “He does not always feel bound by accepted modes of conduct. He showed he considered his personal interests much more important than agreed process.” [9]


It would not be stretching things too far to say Brough started out his working life as a bullshit salesman. As a boy, Brough pioneered a small but thriving business sorting and selling manure. Not that he’s anxious to talk about it now. He’s not anxious to talk about anything in his private life, as it happens. A question about the childhood manure enterprise provokes a bark of surprise. “Jeez, what is this? We’re talking about when I was about 10. I used to collect horse manure and sort it and sell it, yes. I did cow manure, too – it was a better seller, actually. But I branched out into mulch after that.” [3]

At 18, Brough left fertilisers behind and entered the army, where over eight years he rose to the rank of captain. Given the extent to which his military training influences his philosophy and his tactical approach to problems, it’s surprising to hear him say that it was disillusionment that drove his resignation in 1988. [3]

“The Defence Force today is unrecognisable from what it was like at that time; it had no central role in Australian society,” he says. Equipment shortages were rife. Even the basic M16 rifle, Brough says, was in terminally short supply. “We didn’t have one per soldier – we had three per 10 soldiers. I came to the end of my tether there and thought: ‘Well, I love what I’m doing, but I’m not achieving anything here.’ There was a real lack of esprit de corps, and I don’t like being a time server.” [3]

After he left the army, Brough spent several years managing a telecommunications company and several years with Sue – a hairdresser – wholesaling domestic and hair products (a concern which was later to earn him the sobriquet “Captain Decore” from his parliamentary peers). Two more children arrived – a daughter and another son – and their father turned his thoughts to public office. [3]

Mal Brough was a special events and trades show organiser from Mooloolah before his election to Parliament at the 2001 election. [13]

Brough is viewed by colleagues as passionate and ambitious, making up in bombast what he lacks in intellectual subtlety. Typically, he disputes this call. “Contrary to what you all think, I don’t have any ambitions. People don’t understand what drives me – only one thing drives me and that’s what I’m doing,” [3]


1996, Into Parliament

Even before running for office, he had caught the eye of John Howard, who regarded him as a “good potential talent” with a “knockabout style [that] brought him into contact with swathes of middle Australia”. In 1995, before Brough’s first shot at parliament, Howard put him in touch with Everald Compton, a millionaire businessman. After the two men met, Compton thought the young candidate was of prime-ministerial calibre, and still does. “He’s got a strong personality, he’s articulate, he’s got political nous,” says Compton. “He knows when to keep his mouth open and when to keep it shut. He’s a born leader, has a very astute political brain and is a very good policymaker. He’s a very efficient organiser.” [9]

Brough was unhappy his elevation to the Howard ministry had been put on hold after one of his staffers was discovered to have falsely enrolled in his electorate before the 1998 election. ‘Liberal voting scandal brings down rising star’, was how the Sydney Morning Herald headlined its January 2001 story on the allegations. Brough was cleared of wrongdoing. [9]

He held a number of posts under John Howard.

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business from 16.2.00 to 30.1.01.
  • Minister for Employment Services from 14.2.01 to 18.7.04.

After finally taking up his post as employment minister, a string of mini-scandals kept him in the parliamentary spotlight. He was accused of breaching the ministerial code of conduct by inviting a major provider to the government’s Job Network scheme to a Liberal Party fundraiser. He had to defend himself against allegations that a friendly businessman ran training courses that, unbeknown to customers, channelled money to the Liberal Party. There were accusations that his department ran “phantom” job schemes that he was alleged to have known about for months before acknowledging them publicly. [9]

The fact that Brough survived these scandals fuelled a counter-narrative: that he was destined for high office, perhaps even the Lodge. Within party circles, it was widely predicted his fame would quickly eclipse that of his brother Rob, the Family Feud presenter. [9]

  • Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence from 7.10.03 to 18.7.04.
  • Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer from 18.7.04 to 27.1.06.
  • Minister for Families and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs from 27.1.06 to 3.12.07.

malbrough3Alan Colyer, his one-time Anglican pastor, sees Brough as a caring conservative. Colyer says. “If he’s ambitious, it’s for the good of the nation rather than personally. He’s there to make a difference to his constituents.” Nothing better illustrates his benevolence, according to friends, than his efforts to repair the breach between black and white Australia. The Northern Territory intervention, the declaration of what amounted to martial law in Aboriginal communities awash with grog and plagued by child abuse, seemed the perfect vehicle for the captain-turned-politician. As indigenous affairs minister, he could bark out orders and expect them to be obeyed. Certainly, Howard thought Brough’s military background equipped him with the “right style” for the job. “His army training had given him a mix of authority and mateship,” he wrote admiringly in his memoir. [9]

In making the case for the intervention, Brough projected the air of a commander addressing his troops on the eve of battle. The Australian public, he declared to parliament, were “willing to put their shoulder to the wheel when they feel that finally they can help to improve the lot of their fellow Australian citizens – the first Australians.” He concluded: “This is a great national endeavour and it is the right thing to do.” [9]

Also in this role, he decided in 2006 that CDEP had become a “destination” rather than a “path to real employment”.  He began abolishing CDEP in remote regions, despite the fact CDEP was the ONLY source of employment in impoverished towns, not to mention the major funder of basic services. [17]

In 2006-07 his department underspent the Indigenous affairs budget by a staggering $600 million, one-fifth of the total budget. This in the same year that Brough declared “a national emergency” in NT Aboriginal communities. [17]

In May 2006, Lateline broadcast a story entitled ‘Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community’. It featured a witness who appeared with his face blacked out and his voice digitized, and who backed earlier claims by Brough (and rubbished widely) that paedophile rings were rife in Aboriginal communities. Lateline falsely described the man as an “anonymous youth worker” but it later emerged he was, in fact, Gregory Andrews, an Assistant Secretary in Brough’s department. Andrews’ job was to advise the minister on issues of child abuse in Aboriginal communities. He has since been rewarded by the Abbott Government with the plum job of Threatened Species Commissioner. [17]

Eight years on from the policy that defined Brough’s time as minister, the NT intervention, school attendance has dropped, attempt suicide and self harm rates have increased five-fold, and there’s been a more than doubling in reports of violent incidents. All the while the incarceration rate has soared to almost 90 percent of the prison population. [17]

The list of his greed, changing stories, incompetence and ideological shortsightedness is continued in this New Matilda article. [17]

2010 Election

In the final stages of the campaign, Phil Coorey of the Australian Financial Review has since revealed, Brough and Christopher Pyne received warnings from Liberal Party headquarters that their seats were vulnerable. Internal polling also highlighted sections of the electorate they should target in the final hours. Unlike Pyne, Brough reportedly ignored the advice. Before the campaign, it was said that Brough declined an offer from Howard to roll Peter Slipper, in the safe neighbouring seat of Fisher, so that Brough could be parachuted to safety. [9]

In the 2010 Election he suffered a 10.3% swing and so lost his seat. [1]

Between Seats

After losing his seat he became president of the Queensland Liberal Party, resigning after less than five months in pique over its merger with the Nationals to form the LNP. “I’ve just had a gutful, quite frankly,” he told Fairfax Radio. Lawrence Springborg, who became LNP leader, is known to despise him, a view shared by many former Nationals. [9]

Brough moved to Melbourne for a while, then returned to Queensland to mend fences with the LNP and relaunch his electoral career in Fisher. He had already started laying the foundations for his political comeback in a June 2010 interview with the Sunshine Coast Daily, in which he declared it was time for Slipper to stand aside, as well as the Liberal member for neighbouring Fairfax, Alex Somlyay, who at that time was recovering from throat cancer. Tony Abbott, who has been a loyal friend to Brough, is alleged to have tried to lever him into Fairfax by offering Somlyay the possibility of an overseas posting. Following complaints from Labor, the matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police, although no further action has been taken. [9]

With Somlyay determined to serve another term, Brough focused his attention on Fisher. Slipper’s preselection was supposedly guaranteed by the terms of the LNP merger agreement, but local party members were tiring of their eccentric MP, who was accused of abusing travel entitlements and also of not being able to stay off the grog. “If he turns up at a branch function or parliament with alcohol on his breath he’s gone,” a local party member told the Sunshine Coast Daily. After the August 2010 election, Slipper’s decision to take up Labor’s invitation to serve as deputy speaker sealed his fate. “He’s the bloke that took his vote to the Labor Party,” John Howard later scoffed on a visit to Queensland, where he waded into the local preselection row. “I don’t have a vote, but I can say this: Mal Brough was an outstanding minister in my government.” [9]

In December 2010, Brough finally announced his candidacy, a move that brought an instant rebuke from his rival. “I have no respect for Mal Brough,” said Slipper. “He was overrated when he was a minister, it was all about him, he was perpetually on an ego trip, and the only reason he’s joining the LNP, a party he despises, is because he wants to try to get back into federal politics.” Less than a year later, Slipper resigned from the LNP and accepted Julia Gillard’s invitation to become speaker. Part of his reason was the realisation that he would not survive a challenge from Brough. [9]

The Slipper Imbroglio

After Peter Slipper, the eccentric Member for Fisher, accepted the role of Speaker in the Gillard Government, some very strange rumours began to roam the corridors of power and the media, both mainstream and social.

They concerned the behaviour of the Speaker and one of his aides, James Ashby. There were titillating hints of improper sexual activities which eventually went to court but were dismissed. Then there were the hints of illegality surrounding the copying and passing to Brough of the Speaker’s diary.

On September 9, 2014 SMH journalist Latika Bourke reported on a 60 Minutes program “On Sunday, Mr Brough was questioned on 60 Minutes whether he had asked former Speaker’s aide James Ashby to “procure copies of Peter Slipper’s diary” for Mr Brough’s use. Mr Brough, who won the seat of Fisher from Mr Slipper at the 2013 federal election, responded “Yes I did.” Mr Brough added that he did so “because I believed Mr Slipper had committed a crime, because I believed he was defrauding the Commonwealth, and the courts have fundamentally now proven that to be the case”. [10]

Months later, in Feb 2015, the former federal parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper won his appeal against three dishonesty convictions. In a hearing in the ACT Supreme Court, Justice John Burns threw out the convictions and ordered the penalty be set aside. Mr Slipper was found guilty of three dishonesty charges in July for misusing his Cabcharge allowance in 2010 to visit Canberra wineries and then filling out multiple vouchers to hide the fact. [11]

Labor has seized on Mr Brough’s admission, with Queensland backbencher Graham Perrett writing to Commissioner Tony Negus, requesting the AFP “urgently conduct a formal investigation” into Mr Brough’s actions. Mr Perrett believed Mr Brough’s conduct could breach the Criminal Code and Crimes Act. “That conduct could constitute a serious crime,” Mr Perrett wrote to the commissioner. “I would urge the Australian Federal Police to proceed with its investigation immediately, especially given the risk of disappearance for vital evidence.” The AFP says it has received the Mr Perrett’s letter and is “evaluating the matter”. A spokesperson said: “As this process is ongoing, it is not appropriate for the AFP to comment further.” Mr Perrett previously requested a similar investigation from the AFP in 2012. The AFP suspended its probe due to court action. [10]

Meanwhile, Mr Perrett’s caucus colleague, Victorian Labor MP Michael Danby, has said he will ask the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to examine whether Mr Ashby has perjured himself by changing his story on whether he was offered any incentives to make a sexual harassment claim against his then boss Mr Slipper. Mr Ashby originally said in an affidavit that he was offered no inducements, but on Sunday night told 60 Minutes that the senior Liberal MP Christopher Pyne promised him a job and legal help in the event he took action against Mr Slipper. Mr Pyne has denied he made any promises, but confirmed that he raised a possible Coalition win at the Queensland 2012 and federal 2013 elections as chances for Mr Ashby to secure a new job. Mr Ashby’s sexual harrassment case against Mr Slipper in 2012 was thrown out of Federal Court. Justice Rares found it was an “abuse of process” and designed to destroy the former MP’s reptuation(sic). [10]

Resurrected federal government minister Mal Brough says he has not been interviewed by Australian Federal Police one year after admitting he encouraged a staffer to procure copies of the diary of his political rival, the former speaker Peter Slipper. Labor has written to the AFP following the revelation, demanding police urgently resolve the investigation. Labor MP Graham Perrett on Monday released a letter addressed to AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin. [12]

“It is now more than two and a half years since I first requested that this matter be investigated by the AFP,” the letter said. “Over a year has passed since I brought to your attention Mr Brough’s admission that he procured James Ashby to take unauthorised copies of the speaker’s official diary, which was broadcast on 60 Minutes on 7 September 2014. “Mr Brough’s appointment as the Commonwealth’s de facto Minister for Integrity means that it is crucial your investigation be finally resolved. I look forward to your urgent response.” [12]

In an interview with the ABC last week, Mr Brough denied he had requested Mr Ashby to make copies of Mr Slipper’s diary. “You asked Peter Slipper’s staffer James Ashby to make copies of Peter Slipper’s private diary. Was that appropriate?” Lateline host Emma Alberici asked. “No that’s not correct,” Mr Brough responded. “I mean, I know that’s what’s been reported but that is not exactly the right description of what occurred. “But what I can tell you is that I stand by every action that I’ve taken.” [12]

Is this the never-ending imbroglio?

Cleared of Another Scandalmalbrough2

QUEENSLAND’S anti-corruption watchdog has cleared former Howard government minister Mal Brough after a joint investigation with police into allegations he attempted to bribe a Sunshine Coast mayoralty candidate into standing aside for a rival ahead of the April local government elections. The Crime and Misconduct Commission has issued a statement confirming it has found there is “insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation” by failed candidate Michael Boyce that Mr Brough last year proposed a deal that if Mr Boyce stood aside and ran as a councillor, he would get support from a rival mayoral candidate. [14]

The decision paves the way for Mr Brough, who lost his federal seat of Longman in 2007 after 11 years in politics, to stand for Liberal National Party preselection this weekend in the Sunshine Coast electorate of Fisher, held by stood aside speaker and LNP turncoat Peter Slipper. Mr Brough, who is facing off against LNP campaign strategist James McGrath for the blue-ribbon conservative seat, would have been ruled out of contention by party officials if the probe had not been resolved before the preselection this Sunday. [14]

2013, Back into Parliament

After winning the seat of Fisher at the 2013 election, Brough sat on the back bench during the two years of the Abbott Government. Despite sitting on several committees, he had no individual post.

First Leadership Rumbles

At the end of January, 2015 there were leadership rumblings within the Parliamentary Liberal Party.

malbrough5Fairfax Media revealed on Saturday that former Howard government cabinet minister Mal Brough was being urged to challenge Mr Abbott for the prime ministership. Such a challenge would effectively see Mr Brough act as a stalking horse for an alternative leader such as Julie Bishop or Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Brough did not deny approaches had been made to him when contacted by Fairfax Media. He said only that: “Clearly people are talking to each other because we are all interested in doing what’s best for the nation.” [15]

Second Leadership Rumbles

Following the successful Turnbull challenge to Abbott’s leadership, Mal Brough commented on Facebook “Last night, the Liberal Party Room elected Malcolm Turnbull as the nation’s new Prime Minister. It is important to thank Tony Abbott for his contribution and achievements; the nation owes him a great debt. This result highlights that we need to return to being a collaborative, Cabinet led Government that consults, develops strong well thought out policies and explains them to the public. [16]

By backing the Turnbull challenge in September 2015 he gained immediate reward, being named in the Ministry’

  • Special Minister of State from 21.9.15.
  • Minister for Defence Materiel and Science from 21.9.15.


Wherever Mal Brough walks he seems to leave behind a stench of corruption and borderline criminality, none of which is ever proven to be caused by him. Perhaps it is the smell of that bullshit he collected and sold as a 10 year old, stuck to his shoes.

Compiled 30/09/2015

Additions will be made as found.


[1] Wikipedia 30/09/2015

[2] Hansard, Maiden Speach

[3] SMH 29/6/2007 In The Eye Of The Storm

[4] Hansard 27/12/2007

[5] Logan City Council

[6] Sunshine Daily

[7] Parliament of Australia

[8] Mal Brough, Electorate Page

[9] The Monthly September 2013

[10] SMH Sept 9, 2014 Mal Brough and James Ashby should be prosecuted

[11] ABC Online News 26 Feb 2015; Peter Slipper Cabcharge case

[12] SMH Sept 26, 2015 Mal Brough: I’m not under investigation

[13] ABC qanda biog

[14] The Australian July 23rd, 2012 Crime and Misconduct Commission clears Mal Brough

[15] SMH Jan 31, 2015; Tony Abbott reels from triple blow

[16] Facebook

[17] New Matilda, Feb 1, 2015 –  10 Reasons Why Mal Brough Will Never Be Prime Minister

It is necessary, as a researcher or as a casual reader, to remember that Wikipedia pages are subject to change. The changes are visible if you teach yourself to use the “edit” and “view history” Buttons at the top of each Wikipedia page. Right next to the “Search Box”