City News

The man who wants Tanya’s seat

Sean O'Connor (far left) with Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Liberal City of Sydney Councillor Christine Forster

For 32-year-old Sean O’Connor, the Liberal Party values of free enterprise and initiative were instilled early on.

Mr O’Connor, who was born in Nowra, grew up in the central Queensland city of Gladstone, in a family with a small business trucking venture.

“My earliest memories are of my father starting work at 7am and finishing late, usually 7pm. My mother did the books for the business, answered the phones, and my brother was one of the drivers,” says the Liberal candidate for Sydney – the man running against sitting Labor Member, Tanya Plibersek.

“I received my pocket money washing, greasing, and helping my father service the trucks. If I wanted tuckshop money, I had to earn it.”

Mr O’Connor, who works as a marketing manager, says his parents encouraged him to make the best of himself and to “get involved” if he wanted to make a difference.

“My parents told me not to criticise someone doing a job, unless you were willing to put your hand up and do it yourself.”

And since putting his hand up, he certainly hasn’t shied away from criticising.

On Ms Plibersek, he says: “The local Member has been a senior Cabinet Minister in the rotten Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Governments and has to take personal responsibility for the lies, chaos and wasteful spending this government has presided over.”

On Mr Rudd: “What more needs to be said that his own Cabinet Ministers haven’t said already? If one-third of his own Cabinet couldn’t work with him or trust him, how can the people of Sydney?”

But in the current political climate, potshots at the Rudd Government are easy – the equivalent of shooting fish in the proverbial barrel – and Mr O’Connor is keen to talk about positive plans for Sydney and the nation.

Job security, balancing the budget, providing certainty for small business and the Liberal Party’s “proven record of stability and good economic management” loom large in his pitch to the electorate, where he undoubtedly faces an uphill battle, due to the incumbent’s popularity and a demographic mix that tends to favour the left side of politics.

Unlike most of the 150 candidates at the election, Mr O’Connor’s sexuality has also been an issue. A recent News Limited article, which focused almost entirely on the fact that he is a gay man in a party that prohibits same-sex marriage, was typical of the status quo.

With Mr Rudd finally backing marriage equality, after long opposing it in line with the Liberals, Mr O’Connor is in a tricky position.

Unsurprisingly, he puts a positive spin on the situation.

“As someone in a committed same-sex relationship, I support marriage equality. And I support Tony Abbott’s position that this is for a future Coalition party room to decide,” says Mr O’Connor.

“I believe my candidacy is a strong demonstration of how the Liberal Party represents everyone in our society, not just one section of the community. The Liberal Party is one of individual freedom and is a broad church which is inclusive of everybody.”

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