Policing to politics: a look at Llew O’Brien

Wide Bay, Qld


LNP MP Llew O’Brien is chasing a third term in Wide Bay

There’s nothing like the bond between father and son. William knows that his father, Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien, is a busy man serving the region. He also recognises his Dad as a prominent member of society, standing up for the community and protecting the values it holds dearest.

Mr O’Brien is not your typical politician. Well, maybe he is when portrayed in the media, or when going head to head with the Labor Party over the upcoming Federal Election. But his life hasn’t always been so political.

Being a former policeman and traffic crash investigator for over 15 years can do some damage to a person. From horrific carnage on the roads, to suffering ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr O’Brien’s choice to enter politics was purely to serve the community. His son, William, said his father does his job only for the benefit of the Wide Bay region.

“Trust me when I say he doesn’t do this job for himself or for the money or fame,” William said.

His support for a commission into veteran suicides was also well received in March 2021. “He has struggled being in public life,” William said. “It’s had a significant impact on his mental health, which is also a reason he is a big advocate for mental health.”

However, the long-term Wide Bay resident is not just trying to remove the stigma that surrounds mental wellbeing. He’s also the deputy speaker for the House of Representatives, and an avid motorbike rider. Mr O’Brien’s alliance lies with the Liberal National Party, and he was elected first in 2016.

Mr O’Brien’s political career started with a strong foundation. Backed by former deputy Prime Minister and out-going Wide Bay MP, Warren Truss, he was preselected in 2016. His maiden speech focused on aged care, mental health, and agriculture. A disregard for environmental policies and a clear affinity for freedom of speech and religion is also noted throughout his speech.

“The growth and sustainability of the rural areas of Wide Bay are very much tied to the success of agricultural industry,” he said. “The sector must not be burdened by extreme environmental policies that serve to do nothing more than hurt future generations.”

However, politics are hardly black and white. As the younger generations continue to make their way to the polls, many not particularly caring who they vote for but just trying to avoid a fine, why should they be voting for him? While Mr O’Brien did vote consistently for a same-sex plebiscite in 2017, there is a clear gap between what he claims to stand for and what he votes for in Parliament.

So what is important to the younger generation? Concerns about improving asylum seeker policies, climate action and an increase in education funding ranked in the top 10 desirable policies that young people want to see put into action. However, the Wide Bay candidate may fall short on winning over young people. He has voted against increasing funding for university education, several environmental initiatives and asylum seeker related policies.

Persistent attempts were made to secure an interview with Mr O’Brien for comment on his policies and decisions in Parliament. His electorate office in Maryborough claimed he was too busy due to the election.

It’s not all bad. He has successfully kept his seat and won over the people of Wide Bay for six years.

Mr O’Brien has been visiting many organisations over the past few weeks in Gympie, Maryborough and Noosa, showing his support for local charities and businesses for the upcoming election. One trip was to Tin Can Bay to present a $5000 grant for volunteers. Tin Can Bay Meals On Wheels secretary Kim Jennings said that she couldn’t really comment on her interaction with him as “we only had a photo taken with him due to us getting the grant”.

But the Wide Bay has his back, with the Australian Labor Party not having been in power since 1972. The region is made up predominantly of regional towns and farm land. It makes sense that his policies and passion for the area align with its community’s priorities.

“As a police officer, he always had a no-nonsense attitude and he took that with him into politics,” William said. “This has helped him achieve a lot of what he has in his political career.”

That and being a long-term resident of over 35 years in Gympie couldn’t hurt in gaining votes. It also couldn’t hurt that his policies for the future revolve around agriculture, supporting small businesses, upgrading the Bruce Highway and protecting Australia’s borders. Most of these values are also held by the majority of right-wing voters. A quick scope of his Facebook page supports this.

Mr O’Brien has not hidden the fact that he is against the vaccine mandate. A Facebook post from February 15 shows his support for the Convoy to Canberra, claiming that he supports the “democratic right to peaceful protest”. It seemed like quite a bold move, considering the detrimental affects the COVID-19 pandemic had – and still has – on Australia. However, for a region that has voted blue consistently for years, it could be a great move career wise.

William wants to be like his father. He’s inspired to “follow in his footsteps”, and to serve the community in the future. Mr O’Brien supports the policies and views of the Liberal National Party and this shows through his decisions in the Wide Bay region and Parliament House. His son is a part of the younger demographic going to the polls in the coming month. As a politician’s son, his first preference is bound to be an easy one.