He compared an Australian republic to Nazi Germany. He branded Malcolm Turnbull “Basil Fawlty”. He argued against pokies bans. And last week he got into a road rage fight with a 17-year-old boy and is now being investigated by the police.

Who is he? Believe it or not, he is NSW Police Minister David Elliott.

From monarchist bigwig to factional brawler

Initially a fairly anonymous Liberal staffer and army captain, Elliott first came to national prominence during the 1999 republic referendum as director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, successfully leading the “No” vote to victory.

During the campaign, Elliott was best known for comparing an Australian Republic to Nazi Germany, which he described as a time when “power hungry individuals manipulated the constitution until one man could attain dictatorial powers”.

After that success, Elliott moved on to a series of stints in industry lobby groups, which brought him into the orbit of Liberal supremos. As executive officer of the Australian Hotels Association, Elliott fought against government smoking bans and pokie machine restrictions. That was followed by three years in charge of the Civil Contractors Federation.

In 2011, Elliott finally got his spot in state parliament, elected as member for Baulkham Hills in Sydney’s bible belt as the Coalition swept Labor from power. It was third time lucky for Elliott, who’d twice been thwarted at preselection thanks to factional power-plays.

In 2007, he’d narrowly lost out to the NSW right’s golden boy Alex Hawke for preselection in the federal seat of Mitchell. Four years later, Hawke and Elliott joined forces to take on right-wing power broker David Clarke. Clarke beat out Elliott for a spot in the NSW upper house, and then attempted to block Elliott’s bid for the Baulkham Hills seat.

Eventually, Elliott got his spot, thanks in some part to the blessings of John Howard, who he had worked for as a speechwriter in the 1990s.

In his maiden speech, Elliott named the army, the Returned Services League, the Liberal Party and the church as the great constants in his life. He also called for white-collar criminals to avoid jail time by paying fines instead. 

The honourable minister for feet in mouth

Elliott’s four years on the backbench were characterised by a fairly unremarkable social conservatism. He did, however, have time for a bit of citizen policing.

As the SMH‘s archaeologists reported today, Elliott encountered a pack of drunk teenagers one night in 2012, and stopped to photograph them on his Blackberry, encouraging his fellow Hills District residents to report similar instances of anti-social behaviour to the police.

Two years later, a 44-year-old Elliott would become parliamentary secretary for youth, before graduating to the corrections, veterans affairs and emergency services portfolios after the 2015 election. He’s since taken on counter-terrorism, and most recently, police. 

But the headlines have rarely been for Elliott’s parliamentary performance. Last year, he lashed out at Young Liberals president (and son of
Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury) Harry Stutchbury over an article about housing affordability, labelling him an “eastern suburbs private school boy” guilty of a “policy brain fart”. 

In his corrections portfolio, Elliott came under fire over the treatment of youth in custody, including the use of solitary confinement and strip searches. The strip search issue resurfaced last week, when reports revealed over 120 underage girls had been strip searched by NSW police.

Elliott responded by arguing most parents would be happy about the practice, saying he would want police to strip search his own children.

Elliott’s most infamous moment came late last year, when under the protection of parliamentary privilege, he accused opposition leader Luke Foley of harassing an ABC journalist while being drunk at a party.

Eventually, Ashleigh Raper, the journalist involved, issued a statement where she attacked Elliott for raising the incident without her involvement or consent in an act of “political point-scoring”.

Elliott eventually apologised, after Premier Gladys Berejiklian expressed her extreme disappointment in him. That reprimand would surely not be his last.