Malvern – Liberals: Michael O’Brien

Michael OBrien, Liberal Candidate for Malvern
Photo: ABC

Michael O’Brien, Liberal Candidate for Malvern Photo: ABC

Since taking over the Liberal candidacy for the Malvern electorate from former Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle back in 2006, Dublin-born O’Brien has quickly risen through the ranks to become one of the party’s most senior members.

O’Brien’s political leanings date back to his days at Melbourne University, where he became president of the Liberal Club, getting known for initiating the More Beer Club, quickly becoming one of the university’s most popular groups.

Following a career as a barrister and solicitor dating from the mid-1990s, O’Brien worked closely with then-federal treasurer Peter Costello as a legal advisor under the Howard government.

Along with current party leader Matthew Guy and Shadow Minister for Health Mary Wooldridge, he was immediately promoted to the Shadow Cabinet, in charge of Gaming, upon being elected.

During the years of Labor government between 2006 and 2010, he continued to expand his portfolio, becoming Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs in 2007 while maintaining his Gaming position. And when the Baillieu-led Liberals took power in 2010, he retained those roles, while also becoming Minister for Energy and Resources.

However, time in the limelight wasn’t always comfortable for O’Brien. In 2011, an extraordinary proposal by the government saw it seek to change the Gaming Regulation Act, and make it a criminal offence to insult him. Fines of almost $12,000 were suggested, with the Baillieu Government arguing that the changes were “necessary to respect the rights and reputation of the minister and authorised persons”.

O’Brien moved quickly to maintain that the regulations were intended to protect officials of the gambling regulator, and not just himself, from abuse, but the Opposition were quick to pounce. The nickname “Windscreens” O’Brien- initiated by Shadow Gaming Minister Martin Pakula “because this proves he’s got a glass jaw”- still lingers today.

But away from the eyes of the media, O’Brien’s standing in the Liberal Party was only growing. Following the reshuffle that took place after Baillieu’s shock resignation, he became Treasurer under the new Denis Napthine-led government, an appointment recommended by his old boss Peter Costello. Subsequently, he handed down the 2013 and 2014 State Budgets, achieving a better than expected surplus in the former year and initiating an infrastructure splurge in the latter.

Following the government’s 2014 election defeat which led Napthine to stand down, O’Brien nominated for the party leadership. However, he was defeated by Matthew Guy, and was to retain his job as the Treasury spokesman, a role which he is expected to retain should the Liberals win back power in this election.

Outside politics, O’Brien is an avid Carlton supporter, having co-founded MP support group the Spring Street Blues, with other members including Martin Pakula, the man behind O’Brien’s “Windscreens” nickname, and former AFL player Justin Madden.

He also once broke a framed Essendon jumper owned by Peter Costello after kicking a football in the office with a fellow employee.

Government Position: Shadow Treasurer (since December 2014)

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