So, you think you
could become a

The practical steps to embarking
on a political career

Young political advocate

Do you think you could do a better job than our nation’s current crop of top politicians?

All you’re waiting on is a bit of a push to take that first step?

Regardless of your personal standpoint, it’s well-recognised that UQ has been a breeding ground for many leading politicians.

The four most recent Queensland premiers – Annastacia Palaszczuk, Campbell Newman, Anna Bligh and Peter Beattie – are all UQ alumni.

If you add Wayne Goss and Mike Ahern to that list, UQ has supplied six of the last eight people to hold Queensland’s highest office.

For those focused federally (don’t forget the election on Saturday, 18 May), then it’s worth noting that senator Matt Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, is a UQ alumnus.

Former Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan studied a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at St Lucia, while former Governor-General Bill Hayden achieved a Bachelor of Economics and an honorary Doctor of Laws.

Some of Brisbane’s most well-known Lord Mayors once studied at UQ, including current Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner, Campbell Newman, Sallyanne Atkinson and Clem Jones.

And abroad, UQ alumni have also made an indelible mark.

UQ has supplied a host of ambassadors, including the high commissioner to the United Kingdom George Brandis and Ambassador to Russia Peter Tesch.

Past graduate Charles Abel is now Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister to Papua New Guinea, while the President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, also walked the corridors at UQ.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at UQ

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at UQ.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at UQ.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan in his UQ student days.

Former Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan in his UQ student days.

Former Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan in his UQ student days.

If you fancy pursuing political ambitions, there are plenty of UQ clubs and societies to join, even if you aren’t studying in the political field.

There are clubs that reflect the established major parties – Liberal Club UQLNC, the Australian Labor Party Club, the Greens et cetera.

Then there are groups who look to change the status quo like Socialist Alternative UQ and the Anti-Capitalists.

If you are someone who is more issues-focused, you might be interested in honing your skills of public advocacy through clubs like Amnesty International UQ, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society, Fossil Free UQ, Effective Altruism UQ, Pride Alliance or the Refugee Tutoring Club.

Should you wish to move higher up the political ladder, there are some rules of which to be mindful.

To become an Australian Member of Parliament (MP) or Senator, you must:

·      be at least 18 years old

·      be an Australian citizen

·      be an elector entitled to vote (or able to qualify to vote)

·      not be a citizen or subject of a foreign power

·      not have been convicted and are under sentence for an offence punishable by a prison sentence of 12 months or more

·      not have been attained of treason

·      not be an undischarged bankrupt

·      not hold an office of profit under the Crown, and

·      not have a pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Commonwealth Public Service (except as a member of an incorporated company of more than 25 people)

Current rules also state that a person who is a state or territory MP must resign their post before being eligible to stand for the Senate.

In recent years we have seen the fracas caused by dual citizenship, resulting in several high-profile resignations and ineligibility of certain parliamentarians.

Although there are moves afoot to potentially change this stipulation, it’s no guarantee and one which many young hopefuls face a difficult decision about.

Do you surrender a second citizenship to pursue your political dreams?

The law of politics, in particular electoral law, is the expertise area of UQ Professor Graeme Orr from the TC Beirne School of Law.

Professor Orr says, aside from the aforementioned regulations, he advises of the following seven pointers for anybody wishing to enter a political career:

1.     Parties are like clubs. You join by applying and paying an annual fee. That gives you rights and responsibilities under the party’s rules. Check that the party’s vision and people appeal to you, and also view and understand the party’s constitution.

2.     Parties can vet applicants to avoid ‘white-anting’ (undermining or infiltration of the party by opposing organisations). Before applying to become a member, go along to a nearby branch meeting or event, and meet local members.

3.     Most Australian politicians come up through the ranks of a party, spending years gaining trust, connections and learning to crunch numbers.

4.     Parties should be more than an electoral brand. Make the most of being an activist in the party.

5.     Occasionally a big name in another field, who is socio-politically active, will be invited to represent a party.

6.     You could always become either mega-rich or notorious and run your own party. That worked for Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson.

7.     Enjoy your political activity for the policy debates or the ritual. Otherwise, it can be quite an ego-bruising pursuit.

So, there you have it.

Does it still sound like something you can see yourself doing in years to come?

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