James Riley
May 18, 2016

Matt Barrie may run in Wentworth

EXCLUSIVE

Matt Barrie may run in Wentworth

Matt Barrie: Has arrived just in time to make this election interesting

High-profile tech entrepreneur and Freelancer.com chief executive Matt Barrie is considering a run at Federal Parliament and has targeted Malcolm Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate as his seat of choice.

It is not yet clear whether Mr Barrie’s name will make it onto the ballot paper. But he has confirmed to InnovationAus.com that he has been invited to run and that he is considering it. And such an ambitious move against the Prime Minister would not be out of character for the outspoken businessman.

Mr Barrie, 42, has been asked to run as a candidate in Wentworth for Science Party Australia, and is meeting with the party leadership today.

He has also confirmed to InnovationAus.com that running as an independent in Wentworth – where he is a resident – may also be an option.

Science Party Leader James Jansson confirmed the offer had been made for Mr Barrie to run Wentworth and that the party was confident he would come on board.

He has plenty of time to think about it, with nominations closing on June 7. The Prime Minister's office did not respond to queries.

Mr Barrie’s candidacy would add immediate complexity to the Turnbull campaign. Although the Prime Minister holds the seat by a huge margin – 65-35 on a two-party preferred basis – Mr Barrie does have his charms.

Most notably, Mr Barrie has an army of supporters backing his strong advocacy in fighting Sydney’s lock-up laws, which have had a big impact in the ‘bright lights’ sections of Wentworth.

His two recent essays railing against the Baird Government’s lock-out regime published on LinkedIn have been viewed more than 1.2 million times and gathered huge support among people living in the electorate, particularly among younger voters.

He also has the kind of personal wealth that could bankroll a fast-turnaround election campaign – although frankly his profile and policy positions would almost certainly enable him to raise cash quickly.

Mr Barrie’s views across a range of issues are well known (he is not a shrinking violet when offering an opinion). Some may not resonate across the broader electorate, but collectively might find a comfortable home among the voters of Wentworth.

He is not everyone’s cup of tea, but Matt Barrie does have a knack for cut-through.

As the CEO of Freelancer.com – a global platform for borderless service delivery (and according to the SMH, a poster child for free marketeer) – Mr Barrie has built a successful business, considerable wealth, and deep entrepreneurial credentials.

While a candidacy would give huge profile to his local and state passion projects – let’s call them pet hates – like the lock-out laws and the fight against the amalgamation of councils, it would also draw attention to national issues.

Although Mr Barrie has eschewed involvement industry groups, he is nothing if not an activist in the sector, and in particular in policy development support for grassroots startup and entrepreneur movements.

He might not always play well with others. He withdrew support for StartupAus, accurately accusing Google of hijacking a broader movement. He has called the Australian Computer Society clowns, and more recently was the odd-man-missing on the new TechSydney lobby group announced yesterday.

But through all of that he has remained connected to the industry’s power-players and with government, and has pushed policy ideas as hard as anyone, from his early campaigning on tax treatment of share options, to coding in schools, STEM, entrepreneur visas, among many other examples.

It is not clear whether Mr Barrie is fronting a campaign in Wentworth on behalf of others. He does not seem the type.

But his message is in common with many of the successful tech entrepreneurs in Sydney: That despite the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to the Prime Ministership, and despite the National Science and Innovation Agenda, the industry feels it is not being heard.

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