Profile: Chris Minns' Chief of Staff

Everything you need to know about Chris Minns' top adviser and why he's the obvious choice to lead the new Premier's office.

James Cullen is probably one of the youngest political staffers upon whom the mantle of ‘political veteran’ rests so appropriately.

After graduating from Sydney University with a degree in Economics, Political Science and Government in 2003, Cullen jumped straight into the world of political staffing as a fresh-faced electorate officer for the newly minted Member for Prospect, Chris Bowen in 2004. Cullen saw Ministerial potential from the get-go, a perception that was well founded when Bowen was elevated to the Shadow Ministry in 2006 taking on Peter Dutton as Shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Cullen was promoted to ministerial adviser when Bowen became Federal Assistant Treasurer following Kevin Rudd’s victory in 2007, allowing Cullen to apply his background in economics at the ministerial level for the first time. 

However, the big break for Cullen came with Bowen's appointment to Cabinet in June 2009. Bowen was elevated to Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law and Minister for Human Services, and Cullen, to Deputy Chief of Staff.

In September 2010, Bowen succeeded Senator Chris Evans as Minister for Immigration and early in January 2011, Cullen was formally promoted to lead his office as Chief of Staff.

As a mark of Cullen's devotion, he refused to disappear into the ether following Bowen's decision to quit the Gillard Cabinet after an unsuccessful Leadership spill in March 2013. So when Bowen was returned to Cabinet as Treasurer following Rudd’s successful leadership challenge, he returned with Cullen alongside him as Chief of Staff.

Cullen stayed with Bowen in Opposition after Labor’s defeat in 2013. He remained Chief of Staff to the Shadow Treasurer for almost six years, until he was eventually snapped up by lobby firm  Cornerstone Group Australia in 2019. 

As a Senior Director, Cullen was Cornerstone’s point-man when it came to discussing Labor’s prospects on media platforms like Sky News, in the lead up to the 2023 NSW election. 

After almost two years with Cornerstone the ALP once again called on Cullen’s experience, who subsequently took up the position of Chief to NSW Opposition Leader, Chris Minns. 

On March 25, 2023, Chris Minns was elected as the 47th Premier of NSW. Cullen has been at Minns’ side ever since, and has been an obvious contributor to Labor's relatively smooth return to office. His lengthy background in the politics of managing the economy was a real asset for the new Premier’s first challenge - delivering NSW Labor’s first budget in 13 years. 

While Minns does not have much political fat to spare, winning the election by a wafer-thin margin, having such an experienced and dedicated adviser at his side will absolutely work in his favour.

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