By Leo D’Angelo Fisher
Former Home Affairs Minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments, Brendan O’Connor, is the new shadow Minister for Defence.
The appointment of the long-time MP – elected to federal Parliament in 2001 – follows Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s overhaul of his frontbench. The reshuffle was more comprehensive than expected and more far-reaching than Scott Morrison's minimalist ministerial reshuffle at the end of 2020.
The shadow Defence portfolio was previously held by Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles who takes on the new “super portfolio” of National Reconstruction, Employment, Skills and Small Business as well as the shadow ministry of Science.
O’Connor, who previously held the shadow portfolios of Employment & Industry, Science and Small & Family Business, has a long pedigree as a federal government minister.
He held ministerial office in the Labor governments of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard from 2007 to 2013 and was in Cabinet from 2012.
O’Connor’s first ministry was Minister for Employment Participation (2007-09) after which a succession of ministries followed, including Home Affairs (2009-11), Justice (2010-11), Human Services (2011-12), Housing (2012-13), Immigration and Citizenship (2013) and Employment, Skills and Training (2013).
O’Connor sat on the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
At his Canberra press conference to announce his new frontbench, Anthony Albanese described O’Connor as “someone ready-made to step into Richard’s shoes as shadow Minister for Defence”, noting in particular his experience on the National Security Committee and his ministries of Home Affairs and Immigration.
“He’s concerned also about jobs and Australian industry and, of course, the issue of the submarines and other issues that he and [shadow Minister for Defence Industry] Matt Keogh will tackle,” Albanese said.
O’Connor has nominated the strengthening of Australia’s defence industry as a priority focus, noting that he intends to use his experience in the manufacturing and employment portfolios “to hold the government to account to ensure a strong local defence industry”.
Brendan O’Connor is the member for Gorton in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne. He has degrees in arts and law from Monash University and a diploma in industrial relations from Harvard University.
Prior to entering Parliament O’Connor was a union official from 1986 to 2001, most recently as Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union (1993-2001).
Leo D'Angelo Fisher is a regular columnist and Editor-at-Large at Australian Veteran News. Connect with him on Twitter: @DAngeloFisher.