Neurologist Professor Monique Ryan elected to Federal Parliament

Medicopolitical

By Geir O'Rourke

23 May 2022

Professor Monique Ryan

Paediatric neurologist Professor Monique Ryan has won a seat in Federal Parliament after a gruelling election campaign against Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg.

Mr Frydenberg, the former Federal Treasurer, conceded on Monday with Professor Ryan leading by more than 6,000 votes.

Professor Ryan stood as one of the so-called Teal Independents, receiving funding from the Climate 200 group founded by businessman Simon Holmes a Court.

“We’ve started because we wanted action on climate change and we felt that it was the most important challenge of our time,” she told supporters on Saturday night.

“It bloody well is. Our government wasn’t listening to us so we have changed the government.”

It followed a high-profile battle for the seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, which had been held by the conservative side of politics since its creation in 1901.

The contest had generated national headlines, with Professor Ryan’s campaign reportedly attracting 2,000 volunteers and 3,000 donors and her face plastered on billboards and flyers across the electorate.

Collectively, they distributed 4,000 campaign posters, known as corflutes, and knocked on 57,000 doors, Professor Ryan said.

The debate turned personal at times.

Professor Ryan accused Mr Frydenberg of crossing a line in early May, after he shared an anecdote about an interaction with her mother-in-law at his campaign launch, saying she had promised to vote for him.

Professor Ryan did not dispute the interaction occurred, but told ABC Radio Melbourne her mother-in-law “believed she was misquoted in what he said”.

Former Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger later went on Sky News to claim Professor Ryan held average Australians “in contempt”, claiming it would be “a real stain on us” if she were elected.

Tensions also flared on election day, with the Liberal Party accusing Professor Ryan’s campaign team of breaking election rules by using posters without the necessary authorisation information.

But ultimately, the outcome was clear by midnight on Saturday, with Professor Ryan claiming 54% of the two-party preferred vote with more than two-thirds of ballots counted.

She told media the result hadn’t yet “sunk in”.

“I think that there is a momentum for change in Australia, in the Australian political system,” she said.

“I don’t think any of us understands what we have achieved, we have built on a grassroots movement and it doesn’t end here.”

Professor Ryan promised to work on climate action, gender equality and to focus on stamping out corruption in Federal Parliament.

“We feel a great sense of anxiety about climate change, dissatisfaction with the general demeanour of the government and we feel dissatisfied with their attitude to women, with their attitude to the issues that we see as important as a community,” she told The Age earlier this year.

As a neurologist Professor Ryan was head of the neuromuscular clinic and research units at Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

The author of over 150 peer-reviewed publications, she had an interest in the care of children affected by muscular dystrophies, myopathies and neuropathies.

Some three other doctors were elected: Dr Mike Freeleander, Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah and Dr Gordon Reid for Labor, and Dr Sophie Scamps (Independent).

Liberal MP Dr Katie Allen lost her seat of Higgins to Dr Ananda-Rajah.

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