Labor colleagues pay tribute to “visionary” Conroy


news Labor politicians from across Australia have paid tribute to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Victorian Senator, Stephen Conroy, who announced his retirement from politics on Thursday.

Senator Conroy took many by surprise when he tabled a statement in the Senate that he would be leaving his post on September 30, citing the need to spend more time with his family and protect them from life in the media spotlight.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as a Senator for Victoria, as leader and deputy leader of the Labor Party in the Senate and as a cabinet minister in two Labor governments,” Conroy said.

Following the announcement, Labor leader Bill Shorten thanked Senator Conroy for his “tireless contribution” to the Labor Party and the nation.

“His vision for a first-rate, fibre National Broadband Network for Australia speaks for his deeply-held passion for using technology to grow our economy and serve the interests of working people,” Shorten said.

Conroy, the Labor leader said, has been a “formidable presence” in politics and that public servants and parliamentarians alike “quickly learned to respect his forensic skills and forthright style”.

“He is a fiercely loyal champion of the Labor Party, who has never lacked the courage to do things his own way,” Shorten said, adding that he will be greatly missed.

Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek congratulated the Conroy on his 20 years’ service, saying she would “miss him personally as a friend and comrade”.

“Stephen has never forgotten where he comes from, or the political tradition he belongs to,” Plibersek said. “On so many hard economic and social questions, Stephen speaks for Australians whose voices often go unheard: from workers on low incomes to people doing it tough on pensions and benefits.

The announcement came as “something of a surprise”, but it was also “no surprise at all”, Plibersek said.

In a joint statement from Labor colleagues including Plibersek, Shadow Families and Social Services Minister Jenny Macklin, and former Treasurer Wayne Swan, tribute was paid to Conroy’s “utter loyalty”.

“Through the most difficult of times, Stephen was trustworthy and utterly loyal,” Macklin said. “Stephen always stood up for what he believed in and always will.”

“Stephen’s leadership in delivering a fibre NBN will be remembered as one of the most visionary infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the Australian government,” Swan said.

Shadow Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Minister Senator Kim Carr commented that the Senate would be a “diminished place” following Conroy’s retirement.

“He is known on our side of politics as a devoted servant of the ALP and the broader labour movement,” Carr said. “And he is known to everyone in the Senate as a witty, passionate, and when the occasion required, fierce debater.

“Stephen was a factional rival, the fiercest of opponents; he became the most loyal of allies,” Car said.

Labor’s leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, said Conroy had been a “formidable and tireless deputy” to have alongside her in the Senate.

“Stephen has shown enormous courage throughout his career, and there is no one I would rather have standing beside me in a tough fight,” Wong said.

“He is a passionate fighter for the Labor cause. I will miss his support and counsel and wish him well for the future,” she concluded.

Image credit: Parliamentary broadcasting