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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
McClelland to quit at next election
Robert McClelland Photo: John Veage JVE
Former federal Attorney-General and prominent Kevin Rudd supporter Robert McClelland is set to resign from federal politics.
Mr McClelland will retire at the next federal election. His seat of Barton covers Kogarah in southern Sydney, a seat he has held since 1996.
Mr McClelland served as Attorney-General under Mr Rudd's government from 2007 and continued in the role in the early days of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership.
However, Ms Gillard moved Mr McClelland into emergency management in 2011.
Mr McClelland backed former prime minister Rudd in the February 2012 leadership ballot against Ms Gillard. Soon afterwards, Ms Gillard dumped him from the Cabinet.
At the time, Mr McClelland said when Ms Gillard phoned to advise him of his removal from cabinet she indicated he had gone ''further in public statements than others in my advocacy for Kevin Rudd''.
In March 2012, Mr McClelland announced he would remain in politics despite being demoted and his emergency management role given to Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
Fairfax Media reported at the time that Labor party figures were concerned Mr McClelland was preparing to announce his immediate resignation and force a by-election, a dire situation for the minority Gillard government.
Last year he insisted he intended to continue as a backbencher and seek pre-selection for his seat of Barton in the 2013 election. But today Mr McClelland confirmed he would not seek pre-selection.
"After almost 17 years in Federal Parliament my decision has not been taken lightly and follows discussions over the Christmas recess with my family and friends," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Mr McClelland said it had been a "tremendous honour and privilege" to represent his constituents and he was grateful for their support.
"I would also like to thank my family, staff, friends and supporters for their constancy over the past 17 years. They have provided the foundation and support for all that I have been able to achieve as the federal member for Barton and as a minister of the crown."
Mr McClelland did not spell out what he planned to do after leaving federal politics but said he looked forward to "continuing to make a contribution to the Australian community in the next stage of my professional career".
Mr McClelland is the son of Whitlam minister and NSW senator Doug McClelland.
As a backbencher last June, Mr McClelland referred to Ms Gillard's involvement in providing advice on the establishment of a contentious AWU fund in Parliament.
While speaking on a bill to crack down on fraud by union officials, he said: "I never want to see a dollar that a worker gives a union used for any purpose other than the proper purposes of representing that union member's best interests.
"Indeed, I know the Prime Minister is quite familiar with this area of the law; as lawyers in the mid-1990s, we were involved in a matter representing opposing clients."
Subsequently, the Opposition raised questions about the Prime Minister's role in advising on the fund's establishment and her conduct as a lawyer at the time.
Victorian MP Steve Gibbons tweeted that he was "not surprised" to hear of Mr McClelland's decision on Tuesday.
Mr Gibbons said that the Member for Barton: "served the party and his community with great distinction despite what some media commentators have said. Will be missed in Caucus.''
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey also tweeted his support for Mr McClelland.
"Rob McClelland - a very decent guy treated poorly by Julia Gillard. I genuinely wish him and his wonderful family all the very best."
Rudd supporter and Hunter region MP Joel Fitzgibbon also had kind words to say about his Labor colleague.
"Rob McClelland; great MP, great Attorney, great bloke and great mate. A great servant of the Labor Movement. History will treat him well," Mr Fitzgibbon posted.