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New senator keen to ‘do the right thing’

I’M HERE TO HELP: New Nationals Senator for Queensland Barry O’Sullivan, right, speaks with a grazier about the dire drought in Queensland.
I’M HERE TO HELP: New Nationals Senator for Queensland Barry O’Sullivan, right, speaks with a grazier about the dire drought in Queensland. Contributed

AT FIRST blush, Barry O'Sullivan does not appear to be your average politician.

First, he's entering parliament for the first time at 56 years of age.

Second, he appears happy to talk about issues other than politics.

Third, he admits he might often be wrong.

We have drought right behind another long drought and there's been no chance (for farmers) to get ready again.

And fourth, he doesn't seem to have any particular axe to grind.

"I'm a bit of an unusual egg," the new National Party Senator for Queensland said.

"It is very late in life to be starting a political career and, like many, I've been pretty critical of politicians in the past."

But he said starting his political career later in life also allowed him to be different; he didn't need to play the political brinkmanship of many younger MPs looking for a long career.

"It will allow me to do the right thing," he said.

Not that politics is completely foreign.

Sen O'Sullivan has long been involved in the National Party and served as the party's Queensland treasurer for five years until encouraged to take a more direct political role.

"They (party members and preselectors) thought I ticked most of the boxes in terms of life experiences, and I was willing to put something back into the community," he said.

Excuse the visual imagery, but Sen O'Sullivan said many preselectors saw him as something of a blend of two former Nationals senators in Queensland - the long-serving Ron Boswell, who has retired, and the new agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, who moved to the House of Representatives at the last election.

"They want me to take on much of the role Barnaby Joyce played," he said.

And one of the first things on his agenda will be to try to help Mr Joyce get some federal support for drought-affected farmers.

"When we get to times like now, I think we have reached a one-in-a-lifetime range of circumstances that will never be present at the same time again," he said.

"We have drought right behind another long drought and there's been no chance (for farmers) to get ready again."

He said many of those affected were good farmers and good business people, but they could not survive indefinitely without government help to get them back on their feet.

"These people need some other sort of special support, not necessarily financial support," he said.

The new senator left school at 14 years of age, worked on cattle properties in the gulf and as an office boy and cadet reporter at the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.

He later joined the police, became a detective and ran high-profile murder investigations before being made a "change agent" to implement recommendations of the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

He has since started a construction company that employs more than 100 people.

Topics:  barry o'sullivan politics profile