John Robertson (New South Wales politician)

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For John Robertson (1816–1891), fifth Premier of New South Wales, see John Robertson (New South Wales Premier).
For other people named John Robertson, see John Robertson (disambiguation).
The Honourable
John Robertson
Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, John Robertson, addressing attendees at the Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards (2).jpg
Robertson speaking at the Local Government Excellence in the Environment Awards, 1 December 2009
36th Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
Assumed office
31 March 2011
Premier Barry O'Farrell
Deputy Linda Burney
Preceded by Barry O'Farrell
Minister for Transport
In office
20 May 2010 – 28 March 2011
Preceded by David Campbell
Succeeded by Gladys Berejiklian
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Blacktown
Assumed office
26 March 2011
Preceded by Paul Gibson
Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council
In office
18 October 2008 – 26 March 2011
Preceded by Michael Costa
Personal details
Born (1962-11-16) 16 November 1962 (age 51)
Ryde, New South Wales
Political party Labor Party
Spouse(s) Julie McLeod
Children Three
Alma mater University of Technology, Sydney
Profession Electrician
Union organiser
Website Parliamentary website
ALP website

John Cameron "Robbo" Robertson MP (born 16 November 1962[1]), an Australian politician, is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales and the Leader of the Opposition. Robertson is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Blacktown for Labor since 2011. He is a former Minister for Transport and served as a member of the Legislative Council between 2008 and 2011.

Early life and personal background[edit]

Robertson was born at Ryde Hospital in New South Wales to parents Don and Rowena Robertson, the elder of two boys.[1][2] Don Robertson conscripted his son into handing out how to vote cards in the 1972 Australian elections.

He was educated at Denistone East Primary School and Ryde High School. His first job was working for Woolworths packing shopping bags at the age of 15.

He left school at 16 and began working as an apprentice electrical fitter. He worked as one from 1979 until 1987, even working on the New South Wales Parliament building to which he has now been elected.[2] He claims to be the only person to have worked on the construction of that building, as well as being voted into office.[2]

He is married to Julie McLeod and they have three children.

Union career[edit]

During his time as electrician he became an organizer for the Electrical Trades Union in 1986. In 1991 he became an Industrial Officer with the Labor Council of New South Wales, and then its Executive Officer in 1998.

Later in life, he took up tertiary studies, and studied at the University of Technology, Sydney and graduated with a Graduate Diploma of Human Resources.

In 1998 he became the Assistant Secretary of the Labor Council. As Assistant Secretary, he had responsibility for the building and construction industry, breweries, local government, public sector policy, the oil industry and Sydney Water.[3] In 2000, he ran the State Wage Case for the Labor Council before the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales. The case was historic in that it was the first one heard in Wollongong, New South Wales rather than Sydney. The Commission granted workers a $15 per week pay rise.[4]

In 2001 he was elected unopposed as the Secretary of Unions NSW (formerly the Labor Council of New South Wales) replacing Michael Costa.[5] One of his first acts as Secretary was to organize a blockade of the New South Parliament to protest against the introduction of workers compensation law reforms.[6] The blockade did not change the government's plans. During his term as secretary, he headed the organisation as it sold its holiday property “Currawong” to finance a campaign to stop the implementation of WorkChoices by the Federal Howard Government. The deal was said to have benefited the developers as the purchase was at "about half the price"[7] of other bids for the property. Currawong had been established in 1949 to allow the union movement to provide poor kids with decent holidays.[7] Robertson denied the deal was at less than value as it was an unconditional sale compared to other bids which were conditional on building approval.

He has been on the Administrative Committee of the Australian Labor Party since 2005 and he became the Vice-President of Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in 2006. As member of the group Labor for Refugees, Robertson fought in 2002 to overturn the Labor Party's policy on asylum seekers, which mimicked the policy of the Howard Government at the time.[8] Robertson was a pivotal player in the campaign to replace Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley with Kevin Rudd in 2006.[6]

Robertson has held other roles. In 1993 he was a member of the Building and Construction Industry Long Service Payments Corporation. He was a Director of WorkCover NSW between 2001 and 2007. In 2002 he was appointed a Director of the Parramatta Stadium Trust. In 2006 he became a member of the New South Wales Heritage Council. Robertson was a director of Energy Australia between 1998 and 2003, as well as a Director of 2KY Broadcasters between 1998 and 2001.[1]

He has co-authored the book Your Rights at Work, which was published in 1993.

Political career[edit]

On 18 October 2008 he was endorsed to be the Labor Party candidate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of former State Treasurer Michael Costa.[9] He was subsequently appointed to the New South Wales Legislative Council to fill that casual vacancy. Costa was Robertson’s predecessor at Unions NSW, and ironically, was one of the causes that led to Costa’s resignation due to blocking of the privatisation of the NSW power industry.[6]

Shortly after his swearing in, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating sent a scathing letter to Robertson stating that Keating was "ashamed to share membership of the same party" as him.[10] Keating's view of Robertson was that his opposition to the privatisation bid would cost Labor dearly at the next State election.[11]

Robertson won the seat of Blacktown in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly at the March 2011 election that resulted in Labor being heavily defeated. After Keneally announced she was standing down as state Labor leader and returning to the backbench, Robertson was heavily tipped to succeed her.[12] On 31 March, Robertson was elected unopposed as leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition. His immediate task was rebuilding a party that had seen its caucus more than halved in the election held a week earlier—a result that Robertson said the party deserved, calling it "a devastating result, a message that was sent to us."[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Who’s Who Australia
  2. ^ a b c Robertson, John (2008-11-11). "Inaugural Speech – John Robertson, MLC". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  3. ^ "1998 Annual Report". Unions NSW. 1998. Retrieved 2008-11-20. [dead link]
  4. ^ "2000 Annual Report". Unions NSW. 2000. Retrieved 2008-11-20. [dead link]
  5. ^ "2001 Annual Report". Unions NSW. 2001. Retrieved 2008-11-20. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Norrington, Brad (2008-10-20). "Robertson profits in Costa cutting". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  7. ^ a b Farrelly, Elizabeth (2008-10-22). "Currawong, yet another black mark against Labor". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  8. ^ Mitchell, Alex (2008-10-21). "NSW Labor swears in Rt Hon "Robbo" MLC". Crikey (Private Media Pty Limited). Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  9. ^ "Nathan Rees convinces John Robertson to enter NSW politics". 2008-10-18. [dead link]
  10. ^ Clennell, Andrew (2008-11-08). "MP gets lashing from ex-PM". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  11. ^ "Banshee on a rampage: the full Keating text". Crikey (Private Media Pty Limited). 2008-11-25. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  12. ^ Wood, Alicia; O'Brien, Natalie; Barlass, Tim (27 March 2011). "Keneally quits as leader". Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Robertson confirmed as NSW Labor leader". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 31 March 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 

External links[edit]

Media related to John Robertson (New South Wales politician) at Wikimedia Commons

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Paul Gibson
Member for Blacktown
2011 – present
Political offices
Preceded by
David Campbell
Minister for Transport
2010 – 2011
Succeeded by
Gladys Berejiklian
Preceded by
Barry O'Farrell
Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
2011 – present
Party political offices
Preceded by
Kristina Keneally
Leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales
2011 – present