Federal Labor MP Dr Mike Kelly this morning announced he will resign, vacating the seat of Eden-Monaro, meaning the first by-election of the 46th parliament will be for the once bellwether seat.
The announcement had been anticipated for some time, with Dr Kelly’s personal health and the health of his wife at the forefront of the decision.
He told ABC Radio South East NSW’s Breakfast that his decision was “gut-wrenching” but made with the best interests of his constituents in mind.
“It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent this community … To have to lay down that torch is very emotionally charged and distressing,” he said.
ABC News reported that Dr Kelly has undergone several medical procedures over the past six months to address damage to his renal system, caused by severe dehydration during military tours in Iraq, Somalia and East Timor.
Dr Kelly’s wife Rachelle is also experiencing health issues. Being there to support her also factored into his decision.
“I don’t believe I can continue to do the job to the extent — and with the commitment and the physical demand — that I would want to,” Dr Kelly said.
“I would feel I was letting the community down if I wasn’t able to put that commitment in.”
The 60-year-old MP was first elected in 2007. He lost the seat of Eden-Monaro in 2013, before winning it back and breaking its longstanding bellwether moniker at the 2016 election, becoming the seat’s first opposition member since 1972.
Dr Kelly said the timing of his decision will put his electorate at the “front and centre of the national debate” following a string of hardships.
“No region has suffered more through the double whammy of climate change, bushfires and now coronavirus than Eden-Monaro.
“By falling on my sword now, I think I’m doing the best for the region in making sure we get the commitments that we need.”
By-election expected to be three-horse race
When asked about Dr Kelly’s impending resignation at a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his gratitude.
“He’s served his country in uniform. He’s served his country in the Parliament … I wish him all the best and I thank him for his service in both of those respects.”
The Prime Minister said he expects a three-horse race with both the Liberal Party and the National Party also to contest the incumbent Labor seat.
Despite that, Mr Morrison conceded it would be an “extraordinary outcome” for Labor to lose Eden-Monaro.
“It would be a one in 100-year event for a government in those circumstances if they were to take a seat from the opposition, that would be a rather extraordinary outcome,” he said.
NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals MP John Barilaro told the ABC this morning he was considering making a run for the vacancy.
“I had said I would never run against Mike Kelly, but now there is a vacancy I will consider it,” he said.
“I’ll take the weekend to think about it; I’ll have to speak with the family.”