Once were lawyers, the federal budget edition.

by Maille Halloran


A law degree is almost a pre-requisite for Australian politics, with three of the country’s most publicised political figures holding a Bachelor of Laws. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten have been busy since the release of the federal budget supporting or slamming the Liberal party’s policies in the media.

The ability to reason, think on your feet and communicate effectively would certainly come in handy when confronted by determined reporters or political opponents.

Both Tony Abbott, Member for Warringah and Joe Hockey, Member for North Sydney, studied at the University of Sydney. The Liberal leader graduated with an LLB and a Bachelor of Economics. The Liberal minister paired his law degree with a Bachelor of Arts.

Hockey and Abbott were both heavily involved in student politics at university. David Marr’s 2012 quarterly essay Political Animal suggests that Abbott was more heavy-handed in this involvement. Abbott began university in 1976 and by battling the left-wing students that were popular at the time, was elected President of the Student Representative Council in 1978. Hockey became president of the same SRC and also held the office of President in the New South Wales Young Liberal Movement.

Abbott’s journey after tertiary education led him to priesthood before his eventual move into politics. Hockey used his qualifications to work a stint as a banking lawyer, where he began building the financial knowledge that preceded his appointment as treasurer.

On the other side of the parliamentary floor, Bill Shorten, Member for Maribyrnong and the leader of the Labor party holds a Bachelor of Arts and Laws from Monash University. William, as he was then known, studied at the Clayton campus, where his name remains displayed on an honor board for winning Best Junior Advocate in the 1988 university moot. Shorten worked for 18 months at Maurice Blackburn, a later move to the Labor party seems a natural transition from representing workers and trade unions.

Image of an Honor Board at Monash University featuring William Shorten’s name for Best Junior Advocate in 1988 moot.