Order's alumni take the lead
If the Coalition wins government in September, its frontbench will look like a Jesuit schools reunion. Senior party stalwarts Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne and Barnaby Joyce all went to exclusive Jesuit schools in the country.
On the Labor side, prime ministerial aspirant and senior cabinet minister Bill Shorten was also schooled at Xavier College in Melbourne. Corporate Jesuit alumni include James Gorman, now chairman and chief executive of multinational securities giant Morgan Stanley, who was at at Xavier eight years earlier than Shorten.
An even older old boy is Melbourne developer Lloyd Williams, who developed Crown Casino then sold it to the Packers. David Murray, former CEO of Commonwealth Bank and former chairman of the Future Fund was also Jesuit-educated, as was Macquarie Bank's Nicholas Moore.
Abbott and shadow treasurer Hockey have both credited the Jesuits for developing their confidence and inculcating a desire for them to be "a man for others". The Opposition Leader has made no secret of Jesuit influence in his life. "The college [St Aloysius and St Ignatius] mottos, 'born for higher things' and 'do as much as you can' ... I thoroughly assimilated, sometimes to my masters' annoyance," he wrote in his autobiography Battlelines.
His contemporary at St Aloysius, Hockey, also shared Abbott's affection for the Jesuits. In fact, they share a same spiritual adviser in Emmet Costello, a prominent Sydney Jesuit. Hockey said that a Jesuit education had a profound impact on him. "It had measurable impact on my self-esteem," he said, "they also taught me the need to earn the rights to lead."
Father Michael Ryan, a former rector of Xavier College, performed the wedding service for Hockey and baptised his three children. Hockey also named his two boys after two Jesuit saints, Ignatius and Xavier. "I don't think there is any doubt about my affection for the Jesuits," he said.
Shorten, the Labor Party powerbroker, was more sceptical of the notion that a Jesuit education prepared one for political leadership and said there was a case of "retro-seating of the theory".
"Clearly some people who were Jesuit-educated have gone on to be engaged in public life in Australia and there was a lot of Xavier students who haven't," he said, "I am not that sure whether they saw themselves as a political training college."
Shorten rejected the perceived elitism of Jesuit schools, saying while there were pupils from very affluent backgrounds, there were also children of Vietnamese refugees. He was also critical of the exclusion of girls from his old school.
Hockey also observed that more than a quarter of John Howard's cabinet was Jesuit-educated and recited their names: Brendan Nelson, Peter McGauran, Richard Alston, Tim Fischer, Abbott and himself. "I don't think they ever set out to have a particular control of the political process of the Coalition party and it just happened that way," he said.