2023 McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership winners announced

The winners of the 2023 McKinnon Prize have been announced.

A Federal MP from Tasmania, a recently-elected senator and two premiers who were once opponents have been named as winners of the 2023 McKinnon Prize, Australia’s independent, non-partisan award for outstanding political leadership.

The quartet, selected by a panel of distinguished Australians, are:

  • Bridget Archer, Federal MP for Bass
  • David Pocock, ACT Senator
  • Chris Minns & Dominic Perrottet (joint winners), NSW Premier and former Premier

The McKinnon Prize is a collaboration between the Susan McKinnon Foundation and the University of Melbourne and has been awarded annually since 2017. The Prize was established to recognise political leaders from all levels of government who have driven positive impact through their vision, collaboration, courage and ethical behaviour.


2023 McKinnon Prize winners Bridget Archer MP and Senator David Pocock. Picture: Martin Ollman, News Corp Australia.

Bridget Archer – McKinnon Federal Political Leader of the Year

The section panel noted Ms Archer’s enduring courage in standing up for her principles and her collaborative approach to policy discussions. The prize recognises MPs with more than five years in elected office.

Ms Archer said: “From the day I was elected I committed to being a genuine and authentic representative for the people of Bass. Being a recipient of the McKinnon Prize is a reminder it is the community I ultimately serve.

“As members of Parliament, we are in the unique position to lead the conversation and ensure all voices are heard. I will continue to speak out against gendered violence and call for the elimination of violence against women and children.

“I look forward to continuing my advocacy to ensure adequate mental health services are provided not just in Northern Tasmania but across Australia, ensuring the most vulnerable in our society are protected.”

The judging panel praised Ms Archer’s collaborative approach, community work and inclusion of young people in policy discussions.

“Her leadership has impressed successive McKinnon Prize selection panels. It’s appropriate she takes the top honour this year,” said selection panel chair Dr Martin Parkinson.

“Ms Archer has consistently demonstrated rare courage by standing up for her principles and the interests of her constituents, even when this has put her at odds with her party and threatened her career.

“Through all this, her dedication and commitment to her party is clear and the panel noted how she has worked tirelessly to drive reforms from within.”

Fellow panellist Dr Alan Finkel said: “Australian political parties traditionally value discipline and it takes real bravery to pursue an alternate path of principled leadership.”

David Pocock - McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year

The selection panel recognised the ACT senator’s values-driven approach to handling his balance of power position in the Senate and his commitment to genuinely listening to and appraising competing perspectives. The award recognises recently-elected representatives with less than five years in federal, state/territory or local office.

Senator Pocock said: “People in the ACT have shown political leadership for decades, from their support for renewable energy and strong action on climate change, to marriage equality and more recently in the Voice referendum.

“What I have been able to achieve so far in the Senate reflects their energy and determination to work towards a better future for all.

“I believe we have so much more in common than the sum of our differences and this is the approach I’ve tried to bring to my role on the crossbench. We are facing huge challenges as communities, as a nation and globally it’s more important than ever to find ways to work together to solve them. 

“Being accessible, accountable and putting people first, above politics, is what I committed to doing. I think they’re values Australians want to see and values that many winners of this Prize share and it’s a privilege to be recognised alongside them.”

The judging panel said Senator Pocock has made a big impact on Australian politics in a short period of time, also noting his articulation of a new kind of collaborative politics and dedication to these principles in practice.

“Historically, Australia has seen senators who hold the balance of power use that to pursue a relative narrow set of goals, designed to satisfy a small constituency, often at the expense of the broader community,’’ said Dr Parkinson. “Senator Pocock is a great example of how that position of power can be used to pursue a broader vision for the community as a whole.”

Chris Minns & Dominic Perrottet – State/Territory Political Leaders of the Year


NSW Premier Chris Minns and former Premier Dominic Perrottet.

The selection panel noted that although a joint nomination was unusual, the civil, respectful and substance-based campaigning of the two leaders before and during the 2023 NSW State Election was a powerful example that demanded recognition.

This year marks the first time a State/Territory category has been introduced.

“Australian voters have for a very long time been frustrated by what they see as an unnecessary and unedifying level of rancour in politics,” Dr Parkinson said.

“Both Mr Minns and Mr Perrottet would doubtless have sacrificed traditional opportunities for short-term political gain by adhering to a respectful campaign based on policies and not personality.

“The fact that both leaders were able to stick to their ethics despite so much being at stake sets a powerful precedent for other Australian election campaigns.

“When our leaders set a good example at the top it ripples down through all levels of government and, indeed, through the community. A civil tone opens up new opportunities to collaborate and achieve better policy outcomes through consensus.”

The McKinnon Prize selection panel

  • Dr Martin Parkinson AC, Chancellor, Macquarie University (Chair)
  • Dr Alan Finkel AC, former Chief Scientist of Australia
  • Georgie Harman, CEO of Beyond Blue
  • Tanya Hosch, Executive General Manager Inclusion & Social Policy AFL
  • Patricia Karvelas, Host, RN Breakfast on ABC Radio
  • Professor Renee Leon PSM, Vice Chancellor and President, Charles Sturt University
  • Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, President of Chief Executive Women, Chair of the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council
  • Cathy McGowan AO, Chair, AgriFutures
  • Arthur Sinodinos AO, Partner & Chair of Australia Practice, The Asia Group
  • Ashleigh Streeter-Jones, Founder & CEO of Raise Our Voice Australia (ROVA) and Victorian Young Australian of the Year Finalist
  • David Thodey AO, Chairman, Tyro and Xero and incoming University of Sydney Chancellor
  • Jay Weatherill AO, Director of Public Affairs with the Minderoo Foundation