The Hon. Helen Coonan
Women in Federal Parliament

The Hon. Helen Coonan

Senator for New South Wales

LIB, 1996–2011

An early member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, barrister and solicitor and member of the Liberal Party, the Hon. Helen Coonan was elected to the Senate to represent New South Wales in 1996. She entered Parliament interested in indigenous issues, education, employment, health, immigration and access to justice. By the end of her first term she was Deputy Government Whip in the Senate and chair of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.

After the 2001 election Senator Coonan was appointed Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, the first woman to hold a Treasury portfolio. In this role she undertook reforms to business tax, superannuation and the insurance market as well as to tort law and medical indemnity.

In 2004 she was appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. During the three years she was in this position she finalised the full privatisation of Telstra, and took steps towards transforming media ownership and regulation. She also oversaw the start of the transition to digital services. In 2006 she combined this role with that of Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Following the 2007 election, Senator Coonan was appointed to the shadow ministry and later became Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. After leaving these roles in 2009 she continued to support moves to guarantee the future of telecommunications in rural and regional Australia and argued for balanced foreign investment.

After 15 years as a senator she resigned in 2011.

The Hon. Helen Coonan.

Image courtesy of Auspic.