My life as an MP: The radio people who ended up in politics


If you thought working in radio required a thick skin, spare a thought for politicians.

Not everyone is cut out for the public scrutiny that comes with being a pollie, but working in radio can help ease the transition to life as an MP.

That’s certainly been the case for Nationals MP and Member for Mildura Jade Benham.

Benham was elected to office in 2022, but prior to that, she spent 13 years working for different radio stations all over Australia, including as Co-Creative Director at NOVA Entertainment and as an announcer at Territory FM.

Benham tells Radio Today the skills she acquired in radio set her up well for life as an MP.

“First of all, it thickened my skin and made me resilient.”

“Radio can be a pretty ruthless business so having been through that – especially in cap city radio – makes you able to quickly pivot when things change.”

“It also teaches you to think on your feet, how to listen and how to respond appropriately.”

“Then there’s all the basic media skills that you acquire by default. How to write, how a newsroom operates, how to be creative in execution. It teaches you how to speak clearly for the media. It’s incredibly important.”

Benham says she still misses radio from time to time.

“Yeah I do. It’s in my blood but I did start my own podcast so that helped.”

“Being in politics though, I still have plenty of opportunities to go on radio.”

It’s certainly not uncommon for radio people to end up in politics.

Gary Hardgrave, Eoin Cameron, Pru Goward, Dugald Saunders and Sarah Henderson are just some of those who’ve swapped the radio studio for the corridors of parliament.

Then there’s Derryn Hinch.

The high profile broadcaster turned Senator agrees his years spent working in the media came in handy for his career in politics.

Hinch tells Radio Today “A journalism career makes you sceptical and analyse things. You don’t take things at face value.”

“I spent decades attacking politicians, never thinking I’d be one!”

Passionate about criminal justice reform, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party was established in 2015, and Hinch was subsequently elected to the Australian Senate.

There were several proud achievements, with Hinch spearheading the push for a national public register of convicted sex offenders.

He also managed to overturn a long-held ban on photos being taken in the Senate, effectively meaning pollies who fall asleep on the job or fiddle with their phones during parliamentary business would no longer be shielded from scrutiny.

When he lost his seat in the Senate at the 2019 election, Hinch says “a part of me died.”

Hinch describes his time in politics as “a fantastic three years.”

As to which was the better fit for him – journalism or politics – it’s hard to say.

“Both were very effective at the time.”

“Over the years, I met every Prime Minister from Menzies onwards.”

“People attack politicians all the time. I used to have a joke about public servants: Why don’t they look out the window in the morning? Because they’d have nothing to do in the afternoon.”

“I have a bit more understanding and pathos for sitting MPs now.”

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman was also a former radio journalist.

This week – to mark the 50th anniversary of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) she spoke about how working in radio helped her in her path to politics.

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