Tim Wilson clearly enjoys controversy. The self-described libertarian burst onto Australia’s political scene in 2007 as policy director of the Institute for Public Affairs, a conservative free-market think-tank known for its radical views. Then a fresh-faced 27-year-old, he became a regular fixture in the Australian media, appearing to revel in throwing intellectual bombs at the establishment. One landed: shortly after calling for the abolition of the Australian Human Rights Commission, he was put in charge of it instead, a divisive appointment that catapulted Wilson to national prominence.
Just two years into the five-year post he quit to run for election to the federal parliament, where he now occupies a seat as a member of the ruling Liberal Party (which in Australia sits on the centre-right). Memorably, in 2018 he proposed to his partner, Ryan Bolger, from the floor of parliament during an emotional debate on same-sex marriage, an issue he campaigned for with a passion.
Wilson’s recent book, The New Social Contract, argues that public policies that give young people more of a stake in the economy, such as through home ownership, are needed to head off a coming crisis of intergenerational inequity. He spoke to Driving Change about the book, Australia’s response to the pandemic, and his own journey from professional provocateur to political insider.