Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has announced his retirement from politics, breaking down in tears in a speech to the House of Representatives, and saying that he bore no malice to any one in Parliament. He said he would not be continuing beyond this week.
Mr Rudd, who served twice as prime minister, appealed for privacy as he and his wife Therese decided what they next wanted to do with their lives.
“Australia truly is a remarkable country,” Mr Rudd said. He was prime minister between 2007 and 2010 and again this year. “It is a land of remarkable opportunity,” he said, talking of his own experience as the son of a dairy farmer who made it to the highest reaches of politics.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to Mr Rudd’s achievements, and in particular his apology to the stolen generations in 2008
“As someone who has known the Member for Griffith for a long time, I salute him,” Mr Abbott said.
“It is the essence of wisdom to know when the time has come to serve one’s country and to serve one’s ideals in a different capacity,” he said.
“Whether we have been his friends or his foes, or at times both, this is a significant moment in the life of this Parliament, to lose someone who has been one of the big figures in this Parliament and one of the big figures in the public life of this country.”
Mr Rudd, who spoke through tears, requested privacy from the media. “And I’m not planning on any interviews any time soon – everyone on this side of the house can rest assured,” he said.
He said it was a privilege to be asked to return to the prime ministership this year, and that they’d been able to ‘‘save the furniture’’ in the election.
‘‘In fact I think do considerably better than that,’’ he said, to cheers of ‘‘hear hear’’ from the opposition frontbench.
‘‘I’m glad that all you folk in the frontbench were returned in one piece as well, and that we return Labor as a fighting force for the next election.’’
He said the internal reforms made to the ALP this year were a ‘‘great experience for the party’’, but should only be the first step.
‘‘In the meantime I look forward to a full democratic preselection process for all local party members to elect our next candidate for Griffith,’’ he said.
The former prime minister said he came from a family that “really didn’t have much money” but was able to study at university due to the reforms of Gough Whitlam’s government, before becoming a diplomat, a chief of staff to the Queensland premier, and then an MP and prime minister.
“For these remarkable opportunities I will always be grateful,” he said.
Recalling a catch-phrase of his, Mr Rudd closed his speech by saying: “It really is time for me to zip.”