Clare O'Neil

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Clare O'Neil

Member of the Australian Parliament
for Hotham
Assumed office
7 September 2013
Preceded bySimon Crean
Personal details
Born (1980-09-12) 12 September 1980 (age 39)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Political partyAustralian Labor Party
Domestic partnerBrendan Munzel
Alma materMonash University
Harvard University
ProfessionManagement consultant

Clare Ellen O'Neil (born 12 September 1980) is an Australian politician, from Victoria. In 2013 she was elected to the Australian House of Representatives as the Australian Labor Party member for Hotham in Melbourne's south-east. Before entering Parliament, O'Neil worked at McKinsey & Company as a management consultant; and at 23 became Mayor of the City of Greater Dandenong, making her the youngest female mayor in Australian history.

Early life and education[edit]

O'Neil was born in Melbourne in 1980, the daughter of prolific Australian publishers Anne O'Donovan and Lloyd O'Neil. She undertook her VCE at Loreto Mandeville Hall in Toorak, where she also served on the school council. She then undertook further education at Monash University, studying a Bachelor of Arts (History), and then a Bachelor of Laws, graduating with honours in both fields.[1] In 2006, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to undertake a Master of Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.[2]


O'Neil joined the Australian Labor Party at 16 and soon met Simon Crean, former party leader and her predecessor as the member for the division of Hotham. In her maiden speech, O'Neil described Crean as one of her "Labor heroes" and "a person in whose footsteps I am honoured to walk".[3]

In March 2003, O'Neil ran as a candidate for Springvale South Ward in the City of Greater Dandenong and was subsequently elected.[4] After one year in the position, she was also elected as mayor, becoming the youngest female mayor of a local government area in Australian history.[5]

In 2007, while studying in the United States, O'Neil worked as an intern on the New York Stock Exchange; and in 2008 returned to Australia to serve briefly as an adviser to the Office of the Commonwealth Treasurer.[1] In 2009 O'Neil began work for the global Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.[1]

O'Neil was endorsed as a late replacement candidate for the Australian Labor Party in Hotham at the 2013 Australian federal election, following the disendorsement of her friend Geoff Lake.[6] She retained the seat for Labor and was quickly flagged by political commentators as a future Labor front bencher.[7]

In Parliament[edit]

From 2013 to 2016, O'Neil served on the House of Representatives standing committees on Agriculture and Industry and Tax and Revenue.[1]

Following the 2016 election, O'Neil was appointed to the shadow ministry under opposition leader Bill Shorten, becoming Shadow Minister for Justice. She was additionally made Shadow Minister for Financial Services in June 2018.[1] After Labor lost the 2019 election, O'Neil considered standing for the deputy leadership of the party, but subsequently announced that she did not have enough support from her colleagues and would not contest the position.[8]

Political positions[edit]

In a 2013 interview with Michelle Grattan, O'Neil nominated four key areas as priorities for her in politics: economics, child welfare, women's issues, and the welfare of Indigenous Australians.[9] She has also spoken passionately on issues such as human rights violations in Cambodia,[10] primary, secondary, and higher education,[11][12] asylum seeker policy,[13] and Australian Labor Party, party reform.[14]


In her maiden speech O'Neil placed an emphasis on the importance of a strong economy in effecting a fair society and stemming disadvantage. She stated that whilst she believed "government should not be building great tariff walls or controlling the big macroeconomic levers", it did in practice provide "the platform on which our businesses compete – and win – globally" and that political leaders must therefore play a role in providing "good policy and clear communication" on the topic. O'Neil cites her family's history, work at McKinsey & Company, and experiences in indigenous communities as influential in shaping her views on the economy.[3]

Indigenous Australians[edit]

In 2011 O'Neil spent nine months living with her partner in North East Arnhem Land, one of the northernmost regions of the Northern Territory, fostering a child and assisting local women to establish small businesses. During her time in the region she witnessed crises in health, housing, and employment; and she has since spoken in Parliament on her desire to see action taken to resolve them: "For many decades politicians have said it is shameful. I want my generation to be the last to have to say it."[3]

Political Inspiration[edit]

When asked to nominate those political figures she most admires, O'Neil has said that she draws inspiration from Julia Gillard, an "absolute political warrior"; Tanya Plibersek, the former deputy opposition leader; and Jenny Macklin. O'Neil said she admired their ability to "maintain a good sense of what it is to be a woman but also survive in a very masculine and antagonistic political environment" and that she would be observing Plibersek and Macklin in Parliament "to see how it's done".[9]

EMILY's List[edit]

O'Neil is a member of EMILY's List Australia, a political network with ties to the Australian Labor Party that supports progressive female candidates for election to public office.

2019 Australian Labor Party leadership election[edit]

O'Neil was considered a frontrunner for the deputy leadership during the 2019 Australian Labor Party leadership election, but was persuaded to drop out in order to make way for fellow Victorian Right MP Richard Marles.[15]

Personal life[edit]

O'Neil lives with her partner Brendan, an anaesthetist, and their young son. Whilst living in the Northern Territory, O'Neil and her partner also cared for a child as foster parents.[3]

She does not live in her electorate but in nearby Melbourne.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Senators and Members: Ms Clare O'Neil MP". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  2. ^ Monash University (2005). Two win Fulbright Scholarships Archived 30 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d "First Speech: Clare O'Neil MP". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  4. ^ George Negus Tonight (2006). Clare O'Neil. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  5. ^ Nguyen, Kenneth (18 March 2003). "At 23, Clare the Mayor makes Australian history". Melbourne: The Age. Archived from the original on 16 May 2006. Retrieved 21 April 2006.
  6. ^ "Former mayor selected to replace axed Labor candidate in Hotham". The Age. Melbourne.
  7. ^ Peter Van Onselen (14 September 2013). "Only a competent team can spur Labor renewal". The Australian.
  8. ^ "Clare O'Neil pulls out of Labor deputy race, paving the way for Richard Marles". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 May 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Clare O'Neil & Angus Taylor". Politics with Michelle Grattan. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  10. ^ "Motion on Cambodia". YouTube: Clare O'Neil MP. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  11. ^ "Education in Hotham". YouTube: Clare O'Neil MP. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  12. ^ "Abbotts' Budget punishes the poorest students". YouTube: Clare O'Neil MP. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Asylum Seekers and Truth". YouTube: Clare O'Neil. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  14. ^ O'Neil, Clare (13 October 2013). "Labor must do more to free itself from factional chiefs". Melbourne: The Age.
  15. ^ "Clare O'Neil drops out of race for Labor deputy leader clearing the way for Richard Marles". ABC. 26 May 2019. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  16. ^ "How local is local? The 12 MPs who don't live in the seats they're trying to win". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 May 2016.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Simon Crean
Member for Hotham