Fiona McLeod SC: From the Victorian Bar to the heart of Higgins

Australian Labor Party candidate, Fiona McLeod SC, reveals her major motivation for campaigning in the 2019 federal election comes from her ‘life’s work’ with the Victorian Bar.

Ms McLeod joined the Victorian Bar in 1991 and spent nearly 30 years as a barrister, representing ‘the big end of town and the very vulnerable’. Fiona represented the Commonwealth of Australia in major cases such as the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and the Queensland Floods Commission, and also recounts representing those suffering sexual abuse, human trafficking and her contribution to advancement for women.

During her time in this career, Fiona remained non-partisan in order to maintain professionalism, however, she has current Prime Minister Scott Morrison to thank for why she joined the ALP.

Ms McLeod made the leap to join the Labor Party one week before she replaced pre-selected candidate Josh Spiegel in the race for Higgins. This was a decision she made after two events: Scott Morrison brandishing a lump of coal to the cheers of his backbenchers as well as the current PM’s message on International Women’s Day that ‘women can advance, but not at the expense of others’. The self-proclaimed progressive mind and champion for women describes these moments in parliament as ‘a dagger to the heart’ and believes they came at the right time for her to pick a side.

Despite only joining the Labor Party in late March, Fiona is confident that the work to which she has committed her life will show Higgins’ voters the values she will stand for if voted into parliament. Through speaking to the people of the electorate, Ms McLeod has identified two broad issues: ‘What type of future are we leaving for our children and how are we going to manage the cost of living?’ Although some people may not be directly affected by housing prices, Fiona says that voters can see how certain factors will play a part in their children’s futures. These factors include the cost of living, climate change, decreasing career opportunities and access to health care.

Jasper Caverly

Already an outsider compared to Greens member Jason Ball and the Liberal Party’s Dr Katie Allen (who have both run for federal and state government respectively) Ms McLeod is also not currently a Higgins local.  Which poses the question, what attracted the barrister to this seat? Fiona acknowledges that Higgins encompasses a non-homogenous demographic that doesn’t represent the ‘blue-blood seat that it once was.’  She understands and shares the progressive views of voters and will be able to represent the ‘myriad interests’ of the broad Higgins population, a skill she brings from her work with the Victorian Bar.

The fresh-faced candidate admits that although campaigning and being the face for Labor in Higgins has not been an easy task, she’s becoming more comfortable as the weeks go by. In fact, before her interview with The Junction, Ms McLeod was mingling with ‘welcoming’ Higgins voters at Kooyong Station. Keeping with the reality of being a political candidate, she says she’s grateful for the support of her family, and despite respecting that they may not want to be involved in her campaigning, that she knows that they are very proud of her.

In her early days, Fiona recalls being inspired by David Lange, a New Zealand barrister who went on to become the 32nd Prime Minister of New Zealand, representing the Labor Party. Initially Ms McLeod believed that David Lange ‘led her to the Bar’, however today, she acknowledges the seamless transition from barrister to politician as a result of the skills she learned as a lawyer. The Labor candidate believes that her work with the Victorian Bar helps her to have a strong voice to debate and represent Higgins in parliament.

This election is “more important than any election we’ve faced… in the last 50 years” says Fiona, who wants voters to choose a government that is serious about representing national issues, instead of the “train-wreck government… that wants to cling to power.” She is urging the people of Higgins to vote in a government that cares about “our future, the future of our planet, and the future of our kids.”