Born in Shepparton, Victoria, he attended the University of Melbourne before becoming a public servant with the Treasury Department. He was Executive Secretary of the Australian Industry Development Corporation from 1973 to 1974.
In 1975, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the Liberal member for Ballaarat. He held the seat until his defeat in 1980.
In 1984, he was elected to the Senate.
Jim Short was appointed Assistant Treasurer in the First Howard Ministry in March 1996. On 14 October 1996 he resigned his portfolio after inadvertently misleading the Senate about a conflict of interest. He resigned from the Senate the following year to take up a $150,000-a-year position at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where he remained until 2000. He was appointed Special Envoy to Cyprus in 2001.
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