news Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Victorian Senator Stephen Conroy has made the surprise announcement that he is to retire from politics later this month.
In a speech that was tabled but not read in the Senate on Thursday, Conroy joked: “You should always go out on top. This week as Captain of the Parliamentary soccer team I scored a hat trick. It must be time to say farewell.”
The Labor Senator, who will retire on 30 September, provided an overview of his time in the post, covering the time from his first speech in 1996, through his roles in Communications, Defence and Trade, and “championing corporate governance reforms”.
He said: “There is nothing more fulfilling and no greater privilege than to be in Government and conceive, create and implement a strategy to deliver the economic and social opportunities that technology brings and reach all Australians wherever they live and whatever their backgrounds.”
He also called his role in the setting up of the National broadband Network (NBN) his “greatest contribution”.
Conroy took the time to thank a large number of individuals for their support in politics and for their contributions to the Labor cause, including Wayne Swan, Jenny Macklin and Tanya Plibersek, Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and many others.
He further took time to praise Labor leader Bill Shorten, who he said is “a resilient, smart, warm man of the people and for the people”.
“He is Australia’s Prime Minister in waiting. I’m sorry I will not be alongside you in the Federal Parliament as you take your place in history,” the Senator said.
Moving on to his reason for leaving the Senate, Conroy said: “When you resent being in Canberra because you are missing your daughter’s soccer training it is time to retire from the Federal Parliament. It’s time for me to hang up my boots as Captain of the Parliamentary Soccer team and spend more time teaching Isabella soccer tricks.”
He also raised the harshness of life in the media spotlight for himself and particularly his family.
“It is also the intangibles – coping with the coverage in the media, especially as the 24/7 media cycle has changed the nature of political discourse. Noting the glances and scowls as you walk down the street together. Explaining to my young daughter why people have shouted abuse at her Daddy in the street,” Conroy said.
Raising the “sacrifice” his wife Paula has made during his time in office, he said how tough it was for her, “Being immediately judged as you explain what your partner does or who he is based on the media image.”
“I’m sure you would all agree that there should be a special place in hell for those who judge women based on their spouse’s work,” Conroy added.
He concluded by saying, “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. It is also a great responsibility.”
According to the ABC, Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said Conroy’s statement “came as something of a surprise”, adding that he had been one of the party’s “most effective senators”.
The ABC also said Bill Shorten, who is currently in Canada, thanked Conroy for his “tireless contribution”, and added: “He goes with my goodwill, my best wishes and my thanks for his service.”