Profiles

Profile: Anthony Albanese's Chief of Staff

Meet Anthony Albanese's top adviser, a dedicated fighter for public policy that shapes Australia's future.

There’s a general truth in the professional world. You can gauge the measure of a person by looking at where their career has taken them.

Tim Gartrell is Anthony Albanese's Chief of Staff and his career path shows him to be a canny strategist, a driven campaigner, and a dedicated fighter when it comes to public policy.

Gartrell’s career is marked by campaigns designed to shape Australia’s future. All campaigns meet as much opposition as they do support, and it is within such conflict that one can see Gartrell’s innate determination and the drive needed to run the office of the Prime Minister.

Tim Gartrell was born in Orange in 1970. He and his siblings were raised by their parents in a home they also shared with several foster kids during his teenage years. Following Labor’s victory in 2007, Gartrell revealed to the media that his experience in seeing the plight of foster kids shaped his understanding of how ‘fairness’ needed to be a key aspect of our society.

After studying political science in Sydney, Gartrell worked as a researcher for the Australian Services Union and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Following this, he spent three years from 1993 to 1996 as an electorate officer and adviser for Federal Ministers Jeannette McHugh and Frank Walker and Anthony Albanese MP.

After a brief stint as media manager for South Sydney Council, Gartrell was elevated to Assistant National Secretary for the ALP in 1999. As a measure of Gartrell’s commitment to a cause, he not only remained at ALP HQ during the golden years of the Howard Government, he stayed on as National Director after the implosion of Labor's 2004 federal election campaign. 

Gartrell finally had his moment in 2007 with the defeat of the Coalition Government. Gartrell was considered the driving force behind a fresh and dynamic campaign that resonated in some key seats in NSW, Victoria, and South Australia, and caused a headache for the Coalition in QLD.  Prime Minister Rudd praised Gartrell’s campaign leadership skills as ‘first class’.

Choosing to go out on top, Gartrell resigned as National Secretary of the ALP and joined strategic polling outfit Auspoll from 2008 to 2010.

On the subject of polling, Gartrell once commented that "Polling should be used to inform strategy, not create strategy…, it helps define the message. If it starts to dictate rather than inform, then you are in trouble.”

In 2010, Gartrell was appointed as CEO of Generation One, an indigenous employment advocacy organisation, and in 2012 was appointed as Joint Campaign Director of Recognise. Recognise was the national advocacy outfit spearheading the national movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.

However, in 2017 when Prime Minister Turnbull initiated the plebiscite on marriage equality, Gartrell shifted his advocacy focus and was appointed Director of the ‘YES’ campaign. The success of the campaign was another highlight in Gartrell’s career and a testament to his ability to forge public mood into a force for change.

Following the victory, Gartrell partnered with long-time collaborator and veteran advertising guru Simon Collins to launch a new ad agency, Collins Gartrell. Collins had made a name for himself in Australia after moving from the UK, with the iconic ‘Which Bank?’ campaign for Commonwealth Bank.

However, in 2019 Gartrell returned to his old stomping grounds, taking up the role as Chief of Staff in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese.

Although it took some time for Albanese to warm to the leadership of Federal Labor, in partnership with Gartrell, he strengthened his position as consecutive setbacks and scandals plagued the Coalition.

In 2022, Anthony Albanese became the 31st Prime Minister of Australia.

While not an overly decisive result by Labor or the Coalition, emphasised by the rise of the Teal independents, Gartrell helped the Prime Minister solidify his position in the top job.

The first year of the Prime Minister’s tenure has seen Albanese represent Australia on the world stage on numerous occasions and introduce policies into Parliament that speak to the heart of the ALP’s voter base.

Much of this can be attributed to Gartrell’s influence, as can the Prime Minister’s decision to propose a referendum to the Australian Constitution to implement an indigenous voice to parliament.

With recent polling revealing support for the ‘Yes’ campaign on the referendum faltering somewhat, the Prime Minister must be grateful to have a seasoned campaigner and strategist on his team in Gartrell who has been weathered by victory and defeat in the battle for change.

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Tim Gartrell will remain a significant force in Australian politics and a champion for social issues for years to come.

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