Meet the new small business minister: Kelly O’Dwyer

Small business minister: Kelly O’Dwyer

The new small business minister, Kelly O’Dwyer

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle today means Bruce Billson is out and Kelly O’Dwyer is now Australia’s newest Minister for Small Business. 

So, just who is O’Dwyer and what does her appointment mean for SMEs around Australia?


Emerald born and bred


O’Dwyer grew up in Emerald, in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges.

“My parents had this idea that we would live this very nice, idyllic, almost rural life – vegie patch, goats, running around outside. (We had) the Emerald Lake Park waterslides, sandpit, BMX bikes,” O’Dwyer told The Weekly Review.

She went to school at the exclusive Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood, which O’Dwyer says was a significant undertaking for her parents.
“They made a decision that that would be a good academic school, so they drove an hour in, hour back. Big commitment for them”.

She went on to study at Melbourne University, graduating with Honours in Law and an Arts degree majoring in history.


She’s a lawyer by training


O’Dwyer has been described as “straight out of Liberal central casting” due to her background as a lawyer, banker and political adviser.

She started her career as a corporate lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills.

O’Dwyer then moved to a role as an economy policy adviser to former treasurer Peter Costello in areas including competition law and competition policy, foreign investment, private equity, accounting policy and consumer protection.

Her final role before entering parliament was as an executive at the National Australia Bank where she was involved in building a new business area. 


O’Dwyer has never run a small business


Unlike Billson, O’Dwyer has never run a small business.

But she does have a small business background, telling Fairfaxin an interview several years ago one of her “key moments of political awakening” was when the gift shop her parents owned in Fountain Gate Shopping Centre went bust in the recession.

Her grandparents were also small business owners, running two businesses in Melbourne’s Chapel Street in the 1940s and 1950s, one in South Yarra, a licensed grocery, and the other a milk bar, in Windsor.

O’Dwyer praised her grandparents and their influence on her own life in her maiden speech to parliament saying, “They worked in the shop during the day and lived above it at night. They took risks. They employed people.”


She’s been in parliament for six years


O’Dwyer was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009 at the age of 32.

She represents the prized blue ribbon Melbourne seat of Higgins following the retirement of Costello from politics.

O’Dwyer had served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer since December 2014.

She has also been the chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics from 2013 and was a committee member from October 2010.


O’Dwyer believes in individual freedom over big government


In her maiden speech to parliament O’Dwyer emphasised her belief in freedom for individuals and businesses over government intervention.

“In my view, the best path to our collective prosperity involves giving individuals, families and businesses, the freedom, opportunity, and encouragement to build and secure their own futures,” she told parliament.

“That is why I am here. I want to create the best possible environment that allows people to pursue their aspirations. And one that values family as the bedrock of our society – to be nurtured and protected.”


One woman is taking on the job of two men


O’Dwyer is not just taking on the role of small business minister, she’s also going to be the assistant treasurer, the role previously held by Josh Frydenberg. 

She is also going to be appointed to the cabinet’s expenditure review committee which is crucial to the government’s budget process.

This leaves O’Dwyer with a formidable workload. 


She’s a new mum


O’Dwyer married her partner of nine years, Jon Mant in 2006. 

They first met studying law together and Mant works as a corporate adviser at an international bank. 

O’Dwyer is a new mum and gave birth to her first child, Olivia, in May and returned to parliament in August.

Baby Olivia has already hit the headlines after government’s chief whip Scott Buchholz, told O’Dwyer to express more breast milk for her newborn baby to avoid her breastfeeding interfering with her duties in the parliamentary chamber.

SmartCompany contacted O’Dwyer for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.





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