Three Minute Squiz With… Lachlan Harris

Lachlan Harris is a rare breed – a former political staffer who got to the top and then transitioned seamlessly to pursuing his own business interests. He’s the co-founder and CEO of the One Big Switch, a “next generation consumer network”. Before that, Lockie was former PM Kevin Rudd’s comms director. The Three Minute Squiz asked this man about town to answer some questions for us.

Where and how do you Squiz?
On my phone, while eating breakfast, I love it.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d love to sit down to dinner with.
I’m semi-obsessed with Australian history at the moment, so would love to have a dinner party with Arthur Phillip, Captain James Cook, Bennelong and Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

What was the first album you ever owned?
U2 – The Joshua Tree. There’s a couple of songs on that album that I still love.

Where were you born?

Read any good books lately? Like, maybe, the first volume of a two-volume autobiography of a former PM? Asking for a friend
I’ve read a tonne of good books lately, but haven’t read Kevin’s book yet. I just finished Fire and Ashes by Michael Ignatieff, it is the most brutally honest political memoir I have ever read. If you thinking about becoming a politician, I really suggest you give it a read.

Thinking back on your time with the former PM, did anyone leave you starstruck?
Most of the leaders of the big democracies had serious star power – Obama, Sarkozy, and Lula were standouts. I also remember meeting George Bush Junior, and watching him work a room in the White House filled with Australian and American Journalists, he was phenomenal, much better than I expected.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
I really wish I could surf. I live a stone throw’s from Bondi Beach and can’t surf. Hopeless

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I recently read Watkin Tench’s journals, he was a young Captain in the Royal Marines and sailed on the First Fleet to Botany Bay. I’m not sure I would say I identified myself with Watkin, but I definitely empathised with him and was deeply fascinated by his writing.

What’s the goal of One Big Switch and how is it coming along?
At One Big Switch we aim to help our members save money on their household bills. Just over 900,000 Aussie households have joined since we launched in 2011, so we must be doing something right.

In hindsight, do you think becoming a humble fruitier would have been a better career choice?
I am really proud of what my mum and dad and brothers have achieved with their success at Harris Farm Markets, they have worked really hard, and have built an excellent business. I wanted to work for myself, so I chose a different path, I’m happy with that choice.

What’s the best piece of advice your mother/father gave you?
The best advice my mum and dad have given me isn’t in a sentence, it’s imprinted in the way they have both lived their lives. They have shown me a way to work, play, live and love.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Tribalism is fetishised in many competitive pursuits, especially in politics, where most see it as a virtue. But as I get a bit older and (hopefully) a bit wiser I have realised that unquestioning loyalty to the customs and belief of your own tribe can be a very dangerous thing, and is often a long-term weakness masquerading as a short-term strength.

What’s harder: running an ambitious start-up or being a political staffer?
Both are great fun, and to succeed in either field you have to be willing to work very hard. But in the end, I think running your own business is tougher than being a political adviser because you’re in the driver’s seat. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re the boss.

What’s your go-to dinner party recipe when you’re trying to impress, but also trying to look super casual?
I have a super simple tomato salad which is my dinner party secret weapon. It’s just chopped tomatoes, with cheese and some fresh basil. The trick is to buy sweet delight tomatoes and let them ripen in your kitchen for at least a week before the party, and then use Meredith Dairy Marinated Goat Cheese – that stuff is expensive but it’s so tasty it will literally change your life for the better. For dressing just use a dash of good extra virgin olive oil, makes sure its fresh. Olive oil is the opposite to red wine, it gets worse with age, not better.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
I think the Uluru Statement from the Heart was a really important moment in our national history, but one whose significance has not yet been widely grasped. We all have so much to gain from the signing of a treaty between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, and the Uluru Statement was a big signal from the Indigenous community that we can get a fair deal done. It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure this opportunity isn’t wasted.

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