Australian leaders recognised for their role in our world-leading pandemic response

Unsurprisingly, Australia’s COVID-19 response has featured heavily in weighing the nominees to be shortlisted for the 2020 McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership.

While leaders were recognised for their efforts on other issues, such as leading us through the bushfire crisis, bold action on climate change and international economic development, it was our comparatively successful response to the global pandemic that was rewarded by the Prize’s expert shortlisting panel.

The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership is an award that recognises two outstanding Australian political leaders each year – one leader who has served more than five years in office, and one who is a recently elected politician.

The McKinnon Prize receives nominations from the community for politicians they believe lead with their values and drive change through vision, courage, decisiveness and collaboration. This year the Prize received a record 94 nominations.

This year’s shortlist was dominated by leaders who played key roles in driving measures that helped Australia through successive “waves” of infections, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

New South Wales Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean was also shortlisted for his efforts in driving innovation and progress on climate change as well as Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt for facilitating work towards an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

McKinnon Prize Ambassador Simon Crean said the nominees can come from all levels of government – federal, state, territory and local – and were selected across broad criteria.

“The Shortlisting Panel looked for stories of real impact and achievement where peoples’ lives were made better through a nominee’s actions,” Mr Crean said.

“This could include innovative vision to solve important public policy problems, their ability to cross partisan divides and collaborate, courage to overcome opposition and stand up for a worthy principle, compassionate and ethical behaviour that inspired public confidence, and decisive and well-informed decision-making.

“Considering these criteria, it is no surprise our shortlisted leaders included those who led our pandemic response with courage and conviction last year – often in the face of substantial pressure,” Mr Crean said.

The two winners of the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership will be decided by a selection panel formed from a diverse group of distinguished Australians including The Hon Julia Gillard AC, The Hon Mike Baird AO, Catherine Livingstone AO, Nick Farr-Jones AM, Chris Kenny, Leigh Clifford, Sabra Lane, Professor Megan Davis, Lisa Paul AO, Peter McNamara and Yasmin Poole.

McKinnon Prize Ambassador Amanda Vanstone said it was her hope that the silver lining on an “annus horribilis” could be increased engagement in democracy, civics and our political process among all Australians.

“With Australia facing immense challenges in our region and the wider world, it’s more important than ever that we engage in our democratic process, and reward courageous and visionary leaders,” Ms Vanstone said.

“The shortlisted nominees for the 2020 McKinnon Prize across both categories have demonstrated outstanding leadership during an extremely challenging year. Our leaders listened to expert voices, collaborated and communicated strongly. It’s great to see them receive recognition for this.

“On behalf of the McKinnon Prize, we extend our congratulations to all the nominees for their selection and wish them luck,” Ms Vanstone.

The two winners of the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership and McKinnon Prize Emerging Leader will be announced in March.

For more information about the prize and to see the selection panel details visit The McKinnon Prize website.

About the McKinnon Prize

The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership is a new, non-partisan and independent award that recognises two outstanding Australian political leaders each year. It is a collaboration between the Susan McKinnon Foundation and the University of Melbourne through the Melbourne School of Government.

Full nominees list:

McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership
  • The Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Premier of Victoria (VIC)
  • The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party (VIC)
  • The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care (VIC)
  • The Hon Matt Kean MP, Minister for Energy and Environment (NSW)
  • The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia (NSW)
  • The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians (WA)
The McKinnon Prize in Emerging Political Leadership
  • Dr Anne Aly MP, Member for Cowan (WA)
  • Cr Fiona Cunningham, Councillor, Coorparoo Ward (Brisbane City Council) (QLD)
  • Dr Helen Haines MP, Member for Indi (VIC)
  • Ms Elizabeth Lee MLA, Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Attorney-General, Member for Kurrajong (ACT)
  • Cr Carol Sparks, Mayor of Glen Innes Severn Council (NSW)
  • Ms Zali Steggall OAM MP, Member for Warringah (NSW)