Federal Election 2019: Professional political candidates line up to get elected


A snake catcher running as an independent, a poet and several priests have joined more than 100 business executives, and 92 retirees as candidates clamouring to be elected on Saturday.

The race to secure a seat in federal Parliament includes an odium of more than 160 incumbent politicians, about 70 business owners and roughly 50 people who listed their job as being on welfare or unemployed, a Herald analysis of data from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) found.

Jarrod Bingham is a snake catcher running as an independent for the federal Victorian seat of Gorton.

Jarrod Bingham is a snake catcher running as an independent for the federal Victorian seat of Gorton.

Victorian reptile wrangler and local councillor Jarrod Bingham is running in the safe Labor seat of Gorton and said there's no incentive for either party to "promise anything of significance" in such a safe seat.

"My main goal here is to drastically reduce the margin so we can stick it up the major parties," Mr Bingham, 28, said. "Any council that resides in a safe seat severely lacks funding from both state and federal governments.

"There's never been an independent ever run in this seat, so we're in muddy waters here, we don’t know what could happen."

People say it’s pretty funny that there's a snake catcher running for Parliament, but lots of people have also said thank you for giving us an alternative, Mr Bingham said.

"There's a lot of snakes in Parliament so we need to send a snake catcher to sort them out," he said. "I mean how Australian is that?".

The veracity of candidates careers is not policed by the (AEC) but their occupations are listed on nomination forms and published by the commission.

There were about 700 different job titles listed by candidates in 2019.

Some were ambiguous (businessman), some list more than one job (farmer/anthropologist) and others were tenuous, such as "senator in exile" (Rodney Culleton).

The Herald used broad categories to approximate the careers listed and found 13 fewer lawyers, including barristers and solicitors, running in 2019 than 2016. There are eight more retirees and four more students on ballot papers in this election than the last.

In total there are 1514 candidates seeking votes on Saturday, 111 fewer than in 2016.

Australian National University (ANU) politics lecturer Dr Jill Sheppard said the trend in major parties is towards professional candidates from business and legal backgrounds including those who work for political offices or party-aligned businesses.

"(This professionalisation) shows the hold that parties have over the selection of candidates," Dr Sheppard said. "As party memberships decline, the number of people seeking preselection and those choosing the candidates has shrunk.

"The whole process of running for Parliament in Australia has become much more professionalised."

The trend toward more retirees running may be due to the substantial demands of campaigning, in terms of both time and money, Dr Sheppard said.

ANU distinguished professor of political science Ian McAllister said the rise of the career politician is "especially notable" for Senate candidates.

Mr McAllister's research, using major party candidate surveys between 1996 and 2010, found the proportion who had worked for a politician rose from 20 per cent in 1996 to 29 per cent in 2010. And the average candidate reported 17.7 years of party membership in 2010, three years more than in 1996.