Union chief in line for seat as Weatherill quits parliament
Jay Weatherill, who yesterday announced his resignation from state parliament, has ruled out entering federal politics, saying he could think of nothing worse.
The 54-year-old former South Australian Labor premier said he had “run my race” and it was “time to pass the baton on”.
“I don’t like the culture and the dynamic of federal politics,” Mr Weatherill said. “I have no plans other than looking after two little girls and a wife, and some ageing parents.
“Politics is always about the future and I could not see myself running in 2022. Former leaders hanging around politics doesn’t have a great track record. It’s something that really crystallised for me a few weeks ago.”
His decision will cause a byelection in his safe seat of Cheltenham, which Labor holds with a 15.9 per cent margin. The secretary of peak body SA Unions Joe Szakacs is a frontrunner.
The ALP will open nominations for preselection today.
It is understood that Mr Weatherill, who is married with two daughters aged 12 and 14, will be entitled to an annual parliamentary pension of more than $200,000 a year.
His announcement increased speculation that his former deputy John Rau, 59, might soon follow suit. Mr Weatherill said he had “certainly kept him (Rau) informed”.
Mr Weatherill is a former lawyer who entered parliament in 2002 and went straight into cabinet, serving in various ministerial positions until he took over as premier in 2011 from Mike Rann following a cross-factional deal orchestrated by then union boss Peter Malinauskas.
Mr Malinauskas, who Mr Weatherill brought into parliament in 2015, took over as Labor leader following the March election, which ended 16 years of ALP rule in South Australia. Mr Weatherill, who has sat on the backbench since March, had previously pledged to stay on to represent his electorate.
The Opposition Leader said yesterday said there had been no “formal” notification from other Labor MPs that they would retire before the next election, in 2022.
Mr Malinauskas described the former premier as “mild-mannered but full of steely resolve”.
Mr Weatherill has devoted followers from environmental movements, who have hailed him as a hero for “international leadership” in pursuing renewable energy generation. South Australia has the highest level of wind generation in the country, no coalfired power, and among the highest power prices in the world.
Mr Weatherill said following the statewide blackout in September 2016 that he was proud of how his government had “held the line on renewable energy”.
“When we had the statewide blackout and people were describing our policies as reckless, as idiocy in ideology, we held the line on renewable energy, and today there is an acknowledgment that not only are we making a massive contribution to the nation’s stability through things like the big battery, but we are also saving money,” he told parliament yesterday.
“There is an acknowledgment that we are not just a national leader but a world leader in this critical transition to a low-carbon future.”
Federal Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said yesterday her friend was one of the state’s “most transformative premiers”, and had left a “more confident, progressive and secure South Australia”.
Mr Weatherill said his “low points” were abuse scandals involving children and the elderly that filled him with “great sadness”. Among his greatest achievements, he said, was overcoming a series of “economic shocks” that included the cancellation of the Olympic Dam mine expansion.
‘Former leaders hanging around politics doesn’t have a great track record’ JAY WEATHERILL FORMER SA PREMIER
Jay Weatherill, wife Melissa and daughters Lucinda and Alice