Four years after he was first elected, Bragg is not even a parliamentary secretary, the most junior of front bench positions. For the past six months, Peter Dutton has chosen not to fill two jobs that would be an obvious fit for the former financial-industry lobbyist: shadow assistant treasurer or shadow minister for financial services.
Which may have prompted some introspection from the 39-year-old about his political longevity.
“I’m not planning to do this job forever,” Bragg says. “I’m doing as much as I can while I am here.”
The honeymoon is over
As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s popularity honeymoon ends, matters of personnel management are becoming more pressing for Liberal leader Peter Dutton. Recently, he was urged to demote foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham and promote Indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jacinta Price.
Which raises a couple of questions: Does Dutton want attention seekers in his team? If not, how do younger Liberal MPs advance?
Not only is Bragg male, in a party struggling to correct generations of sexual bias, but he represents inner-urban priorities at a time when the Coalition leadership is focused on working-class and lower-middle-class economic concerns.
This year, he became one of the few Liberal MPs in the state to campaign for an Indigenous Voice to parliament – a failed project now seen within the party as a folly of the cultural elite.
He is the cryptocurrency industry’s biggest parliamentary supporter too. Under the last Coalition government, and the current Labor government, he has lobbied for laws – and introduced draft legislation into the Senate – to protect investors and promoters.
The political benefits are uncertain. By some counts, a quarter of adult Australians have traded crypto tokens. They are often associated with crime too.
When asked about his policy work last week, Bragg didn’t even mention cryptocurrencies, initially. When prompted, he said: “The outcome is the government is going to progress what I recommended, just two years later than the Coalition would have done it.”
He was referring to a decision by Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones, disclosed at The Australian Financial Review Cryptocurrency Summit three weeks ago, to license crypto exchanges.
In March, Bragg had accused Jones of being “uninterested in regulating digital assets”.
Jones has promised to introduce a draft law next year, which led Bragg to complain the minister isn’t using a plan written by an opposition MP who criticised him: Bragg.
“There is a bill in the parliament today that would do virtually everything the government now says is important,” he said in a press release on October 16.
While Bragg fights for attention, the pressure hasn’t been great for his personal life. His marriage to ING Australia chief executive Melanie Evans broke down in the last few years. He is now in relationship with a Liberal MP, Fiona Martin, who lost her Sydney seat in the 2022 backlash against Scott Morrison’s government.
They are sometimes seen together at a craft market in Kirribilli on Saturday mornings. Despite much speculation, Martin decided against running for the Liberal Party in North Sydney, which includes Kirribilli.
Bragg’s seat comes up for election at the next poll. His position on the Coalition ticket hasn’t been decided, which means he may have to rely, for his job, on the popularity of the man who refuses to promote him: Peter Dutton.