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Josh Frydenberg: disability champion

A high achiever in an up-market electorate campaigning for the minority. Too young for what? asks Backbench Insiders’ Sarah Hanan.

Young, ambitious and extremely smart, MP for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg has the potential be successful at whatever he chooses but the youthful MP has one big goal: to provide greater support to Australians suffering with disability.

Kooyong includes 49 square kilometers of Melbourne’s wealthiest suburbs including Kew, Hawthorn and Surrey Hills. The prominent seat has had only six members

Josh Frydenberg
Source: APH

since Federation, including the former Prime Minister Robert Menzies. It is a dream seat for anyone with big goals for a political career.

Born in 1971, some may consider the Kooyong MP to be too young to lead one of the most prestigious electorates in Australia. Although Josh Frydenberg is much younger in comparison to some MP’s, what he lacks in years, he makes up for with his CV.

Frydenberg, a high achiever, graduated with a double-degree in Law and Economics with honours. He was elected as  president of the Law Students Society at Monash University, which enabled him to showcase and develop his leadership skills early on.

Upon completing his articles of clerkship at Mallesons Stephan Jaques, the articulate Frydenberg took a scholarship offer at Oxford University to complete a Master of Philosophy in International Relations.

On his return to Australia, Frydenberg worked as an assistant adviser to Daryl Williams,and then to Alexander Downer as Foreign Minister. He eventually became Senior Advisor to the then Prime Minister, John Howard. Frydenberg says: ‘That’s when I crystallised my interest in becoming a member of parliament.’

If Frydenberg didn’t have enough credentials already, the intelligent MP was also a Barrister and Solicitor for the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Director of Global Banking for Deutsche Bank, and, was able to fit in completing a Masters of Public Administration at Harvard University.

Stepping away from politics and proving he was not afraid of hard work and getting his hands dirty, Frydenberg worked as a Jackaroo on a Sheep Station in South Australia: ‘It was a great respite after I finished working in politics to go and do something completely different.’

Frydenberg’s strong interest in public policy debates didn’t keep him out of politics for long. In 2006, the ambitious young man sought Liberal pre-selection for the seat of Kooyong.

In April 2006 the pre-selection came and went. The results showed a defeat to Frydenberg by the then current holder, Petro Georgiou and even though it was considered a loss this did not stop the young hopeful.

Frydenberg could have easily won a seat in another electorate earlier in his career. It was suggested after he failed the pre-selection in 2006 that he run for a seat in the near by electorate of Chisholm.

Frydenberg declined the offer, not just because Kooyong is a high-status seat  but because for Frydenberg, Kooyong is home. Frydenberg’s grandparents lived in the suburb of Kew for over thirty years following their escape from the Holocaust.

Kooyong is where the ambitious Frydenberg set his sights. When Georgiou decided to retire in 2009, Frydenberg won pre-selection and successfully contested the seat of Kooyong. A year later, at the 2010 election, Frydenberg won the seat with 52.56 per cent of the primary vote and 57.55 per cent of the two-candidate preferred vote.

Since 2010, Frydenberg has used his position not just to voice his opinions on the big issues such as the carbon and mining tax, but also on issues such as the proposed National Disability Scheme.

The proposed scheme looks at providing much greater funding to the four million people currently living in Australia with a disability. Frydenberg strongly supports the proposed scheme in and outside of Parliament: ‘People in Australia who have the same disability get funded differently, depending on how they got that disability or which state that they are in.’

When asked what kind of impact the proposed scheme would have on those with a disability, Frydenberg stated that: ‘It will be significant. And that’s the feedback I get from the people I meet.’

Having facilities and schools in Kooyong that cater for those with disabilities, Frydenberg has seen first hand what those living with a disability and their families must endure on a daily basis. It is obvious that although the level of funding varies state to state, those who are affected by disability are doing it tough.

It is important to note that this also includes those who take on the role of carer for those with a disability. Frydenberg knows all too well that: ‘People don’t receive enough support. Support that they deserve and need.’

Last October saw the hands-on MP visit the Alzheimer’s Australia’s Headquarters in Hawthorn to commemorate Carers’ Week.

With over 2.6 million Australians performing the role of carer, Frydenberg is adamant that the selfless time and energy put in by theses carers be more recognised and appreciated. Greater funding is one way these careers can be recognised. That’s why the scheme is so important to Frydenberg: ‘This reform is about creating a level playing field across the country, and also providing greater support for those in need.’

Wanting to bring to light the value and important contribution that people with a disability bring to the community, Frydenberg is pushing for the scheme to go ahead.  “The government have said it’s got a long roll out,” but Frydenberg is confident that money will be put aside and the scheme will become a reality in the near future.

Until then, Frydenberg will continue his fight to see those with a disability and those caring for them be given the funds that they so rightly deserve.


Sarah Hanan is a student at La Trobe University.

To view profiles of some of the other backbenchers as part of upstart’s Backbench Insiders project, click here.

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