Union chief in line for seat as Weather­ill quits par­lia­ment

The Australian - - THE NATION - MICHAEL OWEN

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

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