Anna Bligh

Anna Maria Bligh AC (born 14 July 1960) is a lobbyist and former Australian politician who served as the 37th Premier of Queensland, in office from 2007 to 2012 as leader of the Labor Party. She was the first woman to hold either position. In 2017, she was appointed CEO of the Australian Banking Association.

Anna Bligh
Bligh in 2020
37th Premier of Queensland
Elections: 2009, 2012
In office
13 September 2007  26 March 2012
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorQuentin Bryce
Penelope Wensley
DeputyPaul Lucas (2007–2011)
Andrew Fraser (2011–2012)
Preceded byPeter Beattie
Succeeded byCampbell Newman
Minister for Reconstruction of Queensland
In office
21 February 2011  26 March 2012
Preceded byNew position
Succeeded byJeff Seeney
Leader of the Labor Party in Queensland
In office
13 September 2007  26 March 2012
DeputyPaul Lucas (2007–2011)
Andrew Fraser (2011–2012)
Preceded byPeter Beattie
Succeeded byAnnastacia Palaszczuk
46th Treasurer of Queensland
In office
2 February 2006  13 September 2007
PremierPeter Beattie
Preceded byPeter Beattie
Succeeded byAndrew Fraser
30th Deputy Premier of Queensland
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in Queensland
In office
28 July 2005  13 September 2007
PremierPeter Beattie
Preceded byTerry Mackenroth
Succeeded byPaul Lucas
Minister for the Arts of Queensland
In office
12 February 2004  21 February 2011
PremierPeter Beattie (2004–2007)
Herself (2007–2011)
Preceded byMatt Foley
Succeeded byRachel Nolan
Minister for Education of Queensland
In office
22 February 2001  28 July 2005
PremierPeter Beattie
Preceded byDean Wells
Succeeded byRod Welford
Minister for Families, Community Services, Disability Services and Youth of Queensland
In office
29 June 1998  22 February 2001
PremierPeter Beattie
Preceded byNaomi Wilson
Member of the Queensland Parliament
for South Brisbane
In office
15 July 1995  30 March 2012
Preceded byAnne Warner
Succeeded byJackie Trad
National President of the Labor Party
In office
August 2010  1 July 2011
Preceded byMichael Williamson
Succeeded byJenny McAllister
Personal details
Anna Maria Bligh

(1960-07-14) 14 July 1960
Warwick, Queensland, Australia
Political partyLabor Party
SpouseGreg Withers (1986 - 2015) Anthony Bertini (m. 2017)
ChildrenJoe, Oliver
Alma materUniversity of Queensland

Bligh was born in Warwick, Queensland, and studied at the University of Queensland. Before entering politics she worked for various community organisations. Bligh entered the Queensland Legislative Assembly at the 1995 state election, winning the seat of South Brisbane. She was promoted to the ministry in 1998, under Peter Beattie, and became deputy premier in 2005 and state treasurer in 2006. Bligh succeeded Beattie as premier in 2007 – Queensland's first female premier and Australia's third. She led Labor to victory at the 2009 state election, but at the 2012 election suffered a landslide defeat and announced her retirement from politics. From 2010 to 2011, Bligh was National President of the Australian Labor Party.

Early life

Bligh was born in Warwick, Queensland. She is a descendant of William Bligh, who is famous for the Mutiny on the Bounty and being the 4th Governor of New South Wales.[1] Bligh grew up on the Gold Coast. Her parents separated when she was 13. She attended Catholic schools until Year 9 and considered becoming a nun. One of her aunts became a nun and another had entered a convent. However, the church's attitude towards divorced people (her mother was no longer permitted to take Communion) reportedly estranged her and her mother from the church.[2]

Studying at the University of Queensland from 1978, Bligh gained a Bachelor of Arts. Bligh traces her politicisation to her first year at University, observing a right-to-march rally in King George Square where people were being hit over the head by the police. Bligh's first involvement in activism was student protests against the Vice-Chancellor Brian Wilson's controversial administrative restructuring within the university. She then went on to be involved in the Women's Rights Collective which campaigned for legalised abortion against the anti-abortion policies of the Bjelke-Petersen government. Bligh's next role was as Women's vice-president of the Student Union. She then ran an election ticket called EAT (Education Action Team) in an unsuccessful bid to oust the faction in charge, headed by the future Goss government identity David Barbagallo. Law student Paul Lucas, Bligh's future deputy premier, was a part of Barbagallo's team. Her 1982 team included the former Minister for Education, Training and the Arts Rod Welford. Anne Warner, who was a future Minister in the Goss Government, was an office holder at the time in the Union. Warner soon become one of Bligh's key political mentors.[2]

She subsequently worked in a number of community organisations, including child care services, neighbourhood centres, women's refuges and trade unions as well as in the Queensland Public Service.

Bligh was the secretary of the Labor Party's Fairfield branch in 1987.[3]


Bligh with members of the first Beattie Ministry in 1998

Bligh was first elected to parliament at the 1995 election to the safe Labor seat of South Brisbane, succeeding Anne Warner. A member of the Socialist Left faction of the Labor Party, she was promoted to the ministry following the election of the Beattie government in 1998 as Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care and Disability Services. In 2001, Bligh became Queensland's first female Education Minister. She assumed additional responsibility for the Arts portfolio in 2004.

Education Minister

As Education Minister, Bligh introduced a number of reforms, including a universally available Prep year in every Queensland Primary school, which added a thirteenth year of education and brought Queensland schooling into line with other Australian States for the first time. She lifted the entry age of schooling, while also transforming early childhood education which led to an increase in kindergarten programs from 28% of 3-4 year olds to 94%.

Bligh also oversaw the introduction of “Earning or Learning” laws, requiring all young people aged 15 to 17 to be enrolled in school or in full-time work – effectively lifting the school leaving age from 15 to 17 - the first such laws in Australia.

Deputy Premier

Anna Bligh, Nicholas Rudd, then federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd, and Grace Grace (state Labor MP for Brisbane Central) at Labour Day 2007

In July 2005, the retirement of the Deputy Premier and Treasurer Terry Mackenroth forced a cabinet reshuffle, which saw Bligh promoted to the office of Deputy Premier and Minister for Finance, State Development, Trade and Innovation. Bligh's appointment as Deputy Premier coincided with her election to parliament ten years earlier. In early February 2006, Bligh also gained the Treasury portfolio after Beattie relinquished the responsibility to focus on attempting to fix the state's troubled health system.


Bligh had long been touted as a likely successor to the long-running Premier Peter Beattie, and he publicly endorsed her as his replacement when he announced his retirement from politics on 10 September 2007.[4]

She was subsequently nominated unopposed by the Labor caucus in a deal that saw Paul Lucas from the Right faction succeed her as Deputy Premier. She became the leader of the Labor Party on 12 September. After Beattie formally resigned on 13 September 2007, Bligh was sworn in by the then Governor Quentin Bryce. Bligh led Labor to victory in the 2009 state election. Bligh lost eight seats from the large majority she'd inherited from Beattie, and also suffered an eight-percent swing on the two-party vote. Nonetheless, due largely to taking 34 out of 40 seats in Brisbane, Labor still won 51 seats out of 89, enough for a comfortable majority. The election marked the Queensland ALP's eighth consecutive election win; the party has been in government for all but two years since 1989.

In winning the election, Bligh became Australia's first popularly elected female premier.[5] The two previous female premiers, Carmen Lawrence (Western Australia 1990–93) and Joan Kirner (Victoria 1990–92), became premiers following the resignation of male premiers (as Bligh did), but both were defeated at the following respective state elections. However, Bligh is not Australia's first popularly elected female head of government. Rosemary Follett and Kate Carnell were both popularly elected as Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, and Clare Martin was elected as Chief Minister of the Northern Territory.[5]

In 2009, Bligh was elected to the three person presidential team of the Australian Labor Party, to serve until July 2012. She served as National President of the Australian Labor Party for the 2010–11 financial year.[6]

Queensland Floods

Anna Bligh's leadership came to national and international attention in 2011 as she led the response and recovery effort to devastating natural disasters - a series of catastrophic floods across 78% of Queensland, including Brisbane - followed by a category 5 cyclone.

In an emotion-charged speech during a media conference at the height of the crisis, Bligh rallied the state, declaring, "We are Queenslanders. We're the people that they breed tough, north of the border."

Bligh led a major reconstruction program, including a legislated Reconstruction Authority administering a $6bn rebuilding budget.

Economic Reform

As Treasurer and Premier, Bligh held responsibility for a state budget of almost $50 billion. Her reforms include:

  • Australia's largest infrastructure building program, averaging $15bn (AUD)/year, including new export chain capacity, major new roads and public transport infrastructure and a $9bn ‘Water grid’ connecting water storages and constructing new water sources, including a recycled water scheme and a desalination plant to drought proof Queensland's major urban populations.
  • Major reform of utilities, including the amalgamation of water authorities into a framework structured into supply, distribution and retail corporations of government and the restructure of electricity supply to provide for private commercial retailers, including the sale of Queensland's electricity retailer.
  • New investments into research, science and innovation – shifting a predominantly resource economy to a knowledge-based, creative economy - this 10-year program of investment saw the establishment of 36 new science research institutes and the ratio of scientists and researchers to population grow faster than any other state.
  • Privatisation of the bulk freight and coal division of the government-owned railway business in 2010.
  • Significant new investment in the Arts, including the construction of a new Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and other cultural infrastructure, which saw an increase in cultural tourism. These new investments, including additional funding support for the performing arts and major exhibitions, heralded a renaissance in Queensland's arts and cultural sector with the Queensland Art Gallery now being the most visited museum in the country.
  • Bligh led the successful bid for the Gold Coast to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Social Policy

As Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care and Disability Services and later as Premier, Bligh oversaw a number of changes, including;

  • Implementation of Queensland's first stand-alone Disability Services agency, accompanied by a tripling of budget expenditure to services for people with a disability
  • Australia's first Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in Orphanages and Institutions, resulting in a compensation scheme, a dedicated counselling service and beneficial foundation for victims
  • Welfare reforms in remote indigenous communities, linking welfare payments with school attendance, alcohol rehabilitation and counselling programs
  • Legislated a Preamble to the Queensland Constitution formally recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Queensland's indigenous peoples, as first custodians
  • The first complete overhaul of Queensland's Child Protection legislation in more than 40 years
  • Introduction of significant new legal protections for those experiencing domestic violence, including in same sex relationships, and carer and elder abuse
  • New laws to provide for same sex civil unions
  • Introduction of fluoride into all Queensland drinking water supplies


Bligh announced the privatisation of five government owned corporations:

More than 3,000 workers were to be offered voluntary redundancies, just three months after the privatisation of QR National.

Queensland Motorways Limited and Forestry Plantations Queensland were not being sold, but rather being leased for an estimated 50-year lease. Since this announcement, the Queensland Government announced plans to sell Queensland Rail to the public.

Revenues from privatisation were estimated at $15 billion, to go towards balancing Queensland's state budget.[7]

The sale of these assets aimed at removing significant overheads from the Queensland government's debt portfolio, allowing further growth of the government's capital assets, as well as aiding the government to return to its AAA credit rating. Bligh faced resistance from both within her party and the trade union movement, but defended her privatisation plan as 'not negotiable'.[8]

The 2009 annual state conference of the Australian Labor Party – Queensland Branch, passed a motion, moved by then Treasurer Andrew Fraser MP, seconded by Parliamentary Secretary for Healthy Living Murray Watt MP, supporting the sale of the assets, recognising that the sale would allow the Queensland Government to grow its asset portfolio, and retire debt.

2012 election

Bligh with Kevin Rudd and British Foreign Secretary William Hague at a 2011 barbecue to raise funds for Queensland flood victims.

Bligh's management of and performance during the 2010–11 Queensland floods was widely approved. Labor had been well behind the LNP, led by John-Paul Langbroek, for most of the time since the fall of 2010. However, the following Newspoll saw a record turnaround in Bligh and Labor's fortunes. Labor rose from a two-party deficit of 41–59 to a lead of 52–48, with Bligh's personal satisfaction-dissatisfaction standing going from a negative 24–67 to a positive 49–43.[9] Bligh's recovery in the polls was a factor behind Langbroek being forced to stand down in favour of Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman.[10] Newman had become a national figure during the floods, and polling showed he was the only non-Labor politician who even came close to matching Bligh's popularity during that time.[11]

However, Newman was not a member of parliament, and a by-election could not be arranged to allow him to get a seat in the chamber. For this reason, Jeff Seeney was elected as interim parliamentary leader of the LNP while Newman led the LNP's election team and simultaneously contested the Labor-held seat of Ashgrove.[12] Bligh harshly criticised Newman's move, saying it was irresponsible for Newman to "cut and run" from his post as Lord Mayor while Queensland was still rebuilding.[11] She also hinted that she might call an election a year before it was due. She had previously promised not to call an election for 2011 to focus on recovery, but was concerned that the unorthodox leadership arrangement on the opposition side could make the co-operation necessary for the recovery effort impossible.[13]

On 25 January, Bligh announced an election for 24 March. It was the first time in Queensland history that the voters knew the election date in advance of the parliament being dissolved. Bligh made this decision after learning that the Commission of Inquiry into the 2010–11 Queensland floods would not release its final report until 16 March, rather than the middle of February as originally planned. She wanted Queenslanders to see the report before they went to the polls.[14]

Bligh asked Governor Penny Wensley to dissolve parliament on 19 February, formally beginning the 35-day campaign.[15] She began the race as an underdog; the LNP had regained a substantial lead in polling since Newman took the leadership.

Bligh was dogged throughout the campaign by the perception that she'd misled voters about the asset sales. With Labor sinking in the polls, Bligh conceded in a 13 March interview with the Brisbane Times that in all likelihood, Labor would not be re-elected.[16] The final Newspoll of the campaign appeared to confirm this, showing Labor's support had sunk to only 39.2 percent.[17]

At 24 March election, Labor suffered one of the largest electoral wipeouts in Australian history, and the worst defeat that a sitting government in Queensland has ever suffered, double the previous record-holder of the 1989 election. Labor was reduced from 51 seats to seven, suffering a swing of more than 15 points. This was largely because of a near-total meltdown in Brisbane, which had been Labor's power base for over two decades. The party lost all but three of its seats in the capital, in some cases suffering swings of over 10 percent. Bligh herself suffered a 9-point swing in South Brisbane, and she only overcame her LNP challenger on Green preferences. Ten members of her cabinet were defeated. It was only the sixth time since 1915 that Queenslanders have thrown a government from office in an election.

The next day, with Labor's defeat beyond doubt, Bligh announced she was retiring from politics. She had intended to stay in parliament, but said that the severity of Labor's defeat made her realise the party could not "develop an effective opposition" with her even as a backbencher. She resigned as both premier and state Labor leader that day, and handed her resignation to Wensley the same afternoon, to take effect from 30 March 2012.[18][19] Bligh had intended that the timing of her resignation would allow a by-election to be held on 28 April 2012, the same day as local government elections.[19] She was ultimately succeeded as state Labor leader by her Transport Minister, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Later reports suggested that Bligh would not be able to formally resign from Parliament until the writ of election for South Brisbane was returned, meaning that a by-election would be too late to coincide with the Brisbane City Council election.[20] But on 2 April, she was declared the winner,[21] and a writ was subsequently issued for the by-election.[22]

After politics

In 2014, Bligh was appointed CEO of YWCA New South Wales.,[23] a not-for-profit organisation striving to end domestic violence and build a safer world for women and children.  In 2017, she was made CEO of the Australian Banking Association.[24]

As CEO, Bligh led the industry's response to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, setting out to strengthen bank culture and rebuild trust.

When the Royal Commission interim report was released, Bligh described it as a “day of shame” for the industry and vowed to do “whatever it takes” to regain trust and move the industry from a selling culture to a service culture.

She oversaw the development of an updated Banking Code of Practice and worked with the industry to deliver significant reform.

In 2020, Bligh led the banking sector's response to COVID-19. For the first time, Australian banks agreed to a unified response to assist customers experiencing hardship as a result of the pandemic. Banks agreed to pause loan repayments on almost one million mortgage and business loans for at least six months. The ABA also worked with regulators to ensure that deferred loans would not affect a customer's credit rating. Bligh described the loan deferrals as “a multi-billion dollar lifeline” for customers.

Bligh attributed the banks’ response to COVID-19 to their strong “financial firepower” and their role in the wake of the Royal Commission.


On 8 June 2013, Bligh announced that she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.[25]

Bligh's memoir, "Through The Wall", was published in April 2015.[26]

In 2017 Bligh was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the Parliament of Queensland, particularly as Premier, to infrastructure development and education reform, as an advocate for the role of women in public life, and to the not-for-profit sector.[27]

Bligh holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Queensland and Griffith University. 

She is a non-executive director of Medibank Private and a board member of the International Banking Federation (IBFed).

See also


  1. Thomas, Hedley (12 January 2008). "Bligh reveals family's dark secret". The Australian.
  2. Jamie Walker (3 June 2006). "out of left field". QWeekend Magazine. p. 13.
  3. Hubbard, Murray (11 November 2006). "Bligh's spirit Anna's bounty – Deputy Premier revealed to be the captain's direct descendant". Gold Coast Bulletin. p. 12.
  4. Parnell, Sean (10 March 2009). "Beattie plan up against the odds". The Australian. Archived from the original on 16 March 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  5. "Labor takes Qld election, Bligh makes history". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 21 March 2009. Archived from the original on 22 March 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  6. Australian Labor Party: Welcome to New ALP National President Archived 10 December 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Berry, Petrina (2 June 2009). "Bligh Government to sell five state assets". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  8. AAP (2 June 2009). "Anna Bligh defends privatisation amid Labor party row". The Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  9. Queensland opinion polling Archived 31 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine conducted by Newspoll and published in The Australian
  10. Campbell Newman's Queensland coup Archived 17 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine. 6PM with George Negus (Ten News), 22 March 2011.
  11. Newman's bid for leadership Archived 6 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine. 7.30 (ABC News), 22 March 2011.
  12. Green, Antony. Queensland election preview Archived 11 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 25 January 2012.
  13. Barrett, Roseanne; Walker, Jamie. Anna Bligh ramps up early Queensland election speculation. The Australian, 26 March 2011.
  14. Matt Wordsworth (25 January 2012). "Qld to have March 24 poll". PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  15. "Bligh officially sets Queensland election date". PM. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 February 2012. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  16. Hewitt, Daniel (15 March 2012). "Bligh admits Labor loss 'most likely result'". Brisbane Times. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  17. "Antony Green - ABC News". Archived from the original on 18 September 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  18. Koren Helbig; Sarah Vogler (25 March 2012). "Anna Bligh quits: 'Labor cannot rebuild with me in its ranks'". The Sunday Mail. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012.
  19. "Bligh resigns after election wipe-out". ABC News. 25 March 2012. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012.
  20. "Former Premier Anna Bligh may have to resign for second time due to electoral commission technicality". Courier-Mail. 29 March 2012. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012.
  21. "2012 State General Election: South Brisbane District Summary". Electoral Commission of Queensland. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  22. "QLD2012 – Update on Close Contests – 3 April". Antony Green's Election Blog. ABC News. 3 April 2012. Archived from the original on 8 April 2012.
  23. YWCA NSW Archived 29 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 29 March 2014
  24. "Anna Bligh appointed as Australian Bankers' Association CEO". ABC News. 17 February 2017. Archived from the original on 26 February 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2017.
  25. "Anna Bligh, the former Queensland premier, reveals she has non-Hodgkin lymphoma". ABC News. 8 June 2013. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  26. "Books of 2015". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 December 2014. Archived from the original on 30 December 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  27. "Companion (AC) in the General Division of the Order of Australia" (PDF). Australia Day 2017 Honours List. Governor-General of Australia. 26 January 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
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