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Alice Thompson leaves KPMG, hopes to move to Canberra

Alice Thompson

A big job change promises potentially big things in sustainability options and climate change… or at least a shakeup.

KPMG will have a tough time finding a replacement the equal of its departing cities director Alice Thompson.

The front page of The Sydney Morning Herald this morning (Tuesday) had Thompson announcing her tilt into politics, challenging no less than Warringah in Sydney’s northern beaches, former PM Tony Abbott’s seat.

This is good news. Thompson is a strong supporter of sustainability (while Abbott is its nemesis) and she’s had a background deeply embedded in science and biophilia.

During a fabulous chat with her last year, sitting on the windy shores of Pyrmont Bay instead of inside the airconditioned comfort at Barangaroo, Thompson revealed a down to earth strong and fiercely intelligent woman, firmly rooted on the side of logic and rational behaviour – with sustainability strong on her agenda.

She was pushing sustainability at Sydney’s new airport on which she was a leading consultant not just because it made environmental sense but because it made financial sense to its major investors, the federal government.

Thompson is also a firm supporter of the notion that the best outcomes come from bringing together the disparate people who together can make dramatic changes if they are all in agreement (a philosophy close to this newspaper’s heart). She calls it the skills to “knit” together instead of “knock” together. Her former roles, in the prime minister’s department as senior advisor on cities and infrastructure (with Malcolm Turnbull), as economic development director in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, and as a director in Infrastructure Australia, would have been an excellent training ground for this next step.

I couldn’t then help but to ask when she was making her run in politics.

So today’s news was not a great surprise. And it’s always better sooner rather than later, given the short time frame we’re all working with.

A note of caution though: Thompson will need to lift her profile. She seems to have been notoriously low key and off the radar for most of her career with a thin-ish  LinkedIn presence and what looks like a new Twitter that’s fresh off the deck.

Photos and information about her are in short supply. And already some on the Twittersphere were questioning whether she was a “true” independent and instead of a closet Liberal, much in the vein perhaps of the criticism thrown at Kerryn Phelps at the Woollahra by election. Last time we looked though, Planet Earth didn’t much care what side of politics you were on, as long as your decisions were in its favour.

Here’s what Thompson’s tweet said on Tuesday morning:

“I’m not just doing this to stop Tony’s mission to be leader of the Liberals and Prime Minister, I’m running because I have good ideas for Warringah and the nation and a track record of getting things done in government for the public interest. For 25 years Warringah has missed out on vital infrastructure and while population grew. I’ve seen first hand how capable independents deliver for communities in safe seats and unblock reforms that got stuck in our binary two party preferred system. I know how to do this and will get Warringah’s fair share of attention and funding. My webpage and comprehensive policy platform: Infrastructure. Environment. Economy…. will be active in the next couple of days. Follow me on twitter @ Indy_Ally. I know that collaboration is key to Australia’s success in the new economy. If you would like to join my team and send a message to Canberra, please message me.”

And earlier in the year she paid tribute to her mother Dianne Thompson when she received an Order of Australia Medal for decades of services, including to fight against feral animals, bush hut heritage and “a substantive role for Indigenous Australians in the planning and management of national parks.”

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