The Hon.  Kelly O’Dwyer
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer

Member for Higgins (Vic.)

LIB, 2009–2019

A former lawyer and investment banker, Kelly O’Dwyer was an advisor to Treasurer Peter Costello before winning Higgins in a by-election triggered by his resignation. Committed to ‘fairness’ and ‘opportunity’ for all Australians, she devoted much of her parliamentary career to achieving this through economic reform.

O’Dwyer served as chair of the Standing Committee on Economics ahead of her appointment to ministerial positions with a focus on economics, among them Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. She later held the Jobs and Industrial Relations portfolio.

Among her achievements, O’Dwyer listed superannuation, banking and tax reform, which included establishing the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, closing tax loopholes for multinationals and tackling intergenerational debt.

As a backbencher, O’Dwyer urged her party and the Parliament to support marriage equality, even though colleagues warned it was a ‘career limiting move’. Ultimately she was ‘proud’ that legislating same-sex marriage was ‘the legacy of a Liberal government’.

As Minister for Women, O’Dwyer enshrined in law five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave and introduced initiatives to ensure women’s economic security. Within her own party, she founded the Enid Lyon Fighting Fund to help female candidates contest elections.

The first woman to give birth while a cabinet minister, O’Dwyer said ‘my own lived experience, demonstrate[s] to women contemplating public service that you can have a family, serve at the highest levels and make a serious and lasting contribution to your county’.

The Hon. Kelly O'Dwyer speaking at a book launch at the Malvern Library, Melbourne.

Image courtesy of Daniel Bevan.