Image of Madeleine Ogilvie MP

The Hon Madeleine Ogilvie MP ‘In Conversation’

Article by Kali Goldstone

Our last In Conversations was particularly auspicious as it was held on International Women’s Day, with the Tasmanian Liberal Minister, Madeleine Ogilvie who represents the State Division of Clark in Tasmania.

The official theme for IWD 2023 is “Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’. So, it was quite apt that we conversed with the captivating Madeleine who is currently the Tasmanian Minister for Science and Technology.

Madeleine is passionate about technology, communications and Australia’s emerging Space industry and has led the development of Tasmania’s engagement in the Space sector.  She is also the Minister of Defence, Industries and Advanced Manufacturing, Small Business, Heritage and Racing.

The motivation behind Madeleine’s entry into politics is something that all families, particularly women, can relate to:  Lack of access to affordable, high quality and available childcare.

At the time, Madeleine was in an executive role at Telstra in Sydney. She had taken time off to have her first child and Telstra “were supportive of that and wanted me to come back and do more” says Madeleine. “But I just couldn’t get childcare that was available, affordable and [that] I felt safe [with].”

Madeleine thought that this “was really unfair and that it was a political setting that was discriminatory towards women and working mothers and people at that stage of their careers.”

The issue of childcare propelled Madeleine to engage in politics and she “joined the Labor Party in New South Wales.” Her grandfather, Eric James Ogilvie, was the previous Labor member for Wilmot, so she had an alliance with the party.

During this time, the Tampa crises was unfolding and Madeleine was very engaged with the refugee sector. “I think anyone with a heart was really quite horrified,” and the “abysmal political response” also activated Madeleine to want to get involved in politics.

Madeleine did not find adequate childcare in Sydney so she moved back home to Tasmania and opened her own legal practice, which allowed her the flexible schedule she needed, to be a mum and enter public life.

Madeleine first ran in the 2010 Tasmanian state election, but was not elected. She was elected at the 2014 state election and was the only new Labor member elected in an election that saw the Labor Party lose government.

Madeleine is very much into the “grassroots side of politics . . . working with real people, with real problems.” Madeleine wanted to “raise her voice on these issues” and knew that the only way to do that was to get a seat at the table.

Madeleine would really like to –

“See see the full diversity of women across the political spectrum.”

Madeleine believes that –

“Women need to rethink how we engage with parties and politics because we are 50% of the population and yet the structures in politics . . . the old Westminster style, the aggressive behaviour, is really quite a male frame of reference.”

That is why Madeleine identifies with our mission here at Women For Election to “see more women with diverse and real lived experience … [who can] make legislation that positively affects people on a day to day basis.”

Madeleine’s political career is particularly interesting as she has represented the Labor party and the Liberal party as an MP and has also been an Independent MP!

Regarding this transformation in her political affiliations Madeline believes that “parties do change over time, ideology shifts,” and that “I stayed in the middle and things have shifted around me.”

Although Madeleine has experienced both being an independent and a party MP, she now views herself as a “real party person.” She likes “the energy and intellectual rigor that comes with working within a party system.”

This shift has not affected her relationship with her old and current colleagues because she has always approached politics with the same attitude her dad taught her: “Never attack people personally . . . your arguments should be based on policy and logic and good sense.”

Madeleine believes the best antidote to misogyny and gaslighting is –

“Just pure success. It’s being better, it’s delivering outcomes.” Her mantra is always to be “careful and balanced and well mannered,” whenever she comes up against such behaviour.

The best advice she received was “to never hold grudges”. She acknowledged that while “it is really hard not to, it’s great advice because politics moves so quickly and you have to be quite agile.”

Women for Election are grateful for Madeleine’s unwavering commitment to sharing her stories with our alumni and wanting to inspire other women to run for public office.