What in-house and litigation skills are useful in running for Parliament?
Former ANZ senior lawyer Georgia Steele – who is running as an independent candidate against UAP MP Craig Kelly – said her experience in-house, and as a litigator, will come in handy if elected at the looming federal election.
Georgia Steele is motivated by the idea that there is a great chance at the next federal election to “really refresh Australian democracy”.
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Ms Steele – who worked in BigLaw firms Allens and Freshfields before moving in-house at ANZ to work in dispute resolution and regulatory affairs – is running in the southern Sydney seat of Hughes, currently held by Craig Kelly MP, who defected from the Liberal Party to Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.
Speaking recently on The Lawyers Weekly Show, Ms Steele said that she has become “increasingly exasperated” with federal politics.
“It really was baffling to me that so little could be achieved, that there could be such bad behaviour among these elected people who occupy the most privileged position in the land,” she reflected.
“I really looked around and thought about my career that I had had, thought about the skills that I had, and I thought that I could do that. I thought, you know what? I look around me and all my friends, my professional colleagues, I reckon anyone would do a better job.”
Such a feeling was compounded, Ms Steele went on, with her increasing alarm at Australia’s inaction on climate change.
“I didn’t want to be in a position in 30 or 40 years’ time where my children were asking me how on earth me and my generation could’ve let it get this bad. So, I decided that I would do everything I could to turn that situation around, and having thought it through carefully for a long time, us lawyers, we don’t like to jump into things, I decided that the best use of my skills was running for federal Parliament. And so that’s what I decided to do,” she said.
When asked about how her legal experience – both in private practice and then in-house – will assist her if elected to Parliament, Ms Steele said that expertise in writing, advocating, negotiating, compromising, and coming to settlement arrangements were all critical as a litigator and would serve her well as an MP.
This is especially so, she noted, given her experience in financial services litigation and class actions in the aftermath of the global financial crisis (GFC) and then in managing the response of ANZ to the banking royal commission.
“The job of a federal parliamentarian in making laws will often involve all of those skills, apart from the actual legal skills of being able to quickly read and absorb and understand legislation. But those kinds of skills I think will be critically important, especially for an independent on the crossbench,” she outlined.
“I won’t be a party politician who votes the way they’re told.
“I will have to understand what it is that I’m reading, and I will have to do all of that work myself. I think that there will be a huge workload for an independent. And as we all know, huge workloads come as second nature to people who worked in top-tier law firms.”
There are also specific skills gleaned from her time in corporate life, Ms Steele went on, that will be essential to her success as a lawmaker.
“[You need] real people-focused skills and the ability to prosecute a priority, to prosecute an objective. You have to learn how to bring people along with you on a journey, and learn how to make people understand why what it is that you say is the right way to go, is the right way to go,” she said.
“That is the skill of influence. You have to do that much, much more in corporate Australia. Everyone has different priorities in their own areas. Not everyone thinks that your priorities are worth listening to, and you have to learn to bring those people around. I think that’s going to be critical in federal Parliament.”
These skills – together with her broader political philosophy – should give ample reason to voters in Hughes to vote for her rather than the incumbent, Ms Steele submitted.
“I don’t think lawyers in Hughes need any explanation about why they should vote one Georgia Steele instead of voting one Craig Kelly. It is axiomatic,” she concluded.
“But, ‘vote one’ Georgia Steele because independents are the circuit breaker that we need in Australian politics right now, and I really believe that we can make change.”
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Georgia Steele, click below: