Labor elder John Faulkner announces retirement

Senator John Faulkner is bowing out of politics. Photo: Andrew MearesLabor Party elder and reform campaigner John Faulkner has announced his will not seek another term in the Senate when the party’s New South Wales branch calls for nominations on Friday.
Nanjing Night Net

The former Labor leader in the Senate has decided to bow out when his term ends in 2017, saying that to seek a further six-year term would be “an indulgence”.

But the decision to bring on the preselections ensures that they will be conducted under rules that Senator Faulkner has attacked as enfranchising only factional leaders.

Senator Faulkner will move at the party’s July conference, which will decide the party’s 2017 Senate ticket, for future NSW Senate and Legislative Council candidates to be determined by a ballot of the full party membership.

In a statement on his website, he expressed his gratitude to those who had trusted and supported him since he entered the Senate in 1989. Over a quarter of a century, he served as a cabinet minister in three Labor governments and as a senator under eight Labor leaders.

“Neville Wran nailed it when he once said that no one of us could ever claim to have given more to the Australian Labor Party than any of us had received from it. That is certainly true in my case,” Senator Faulkner said.

Aside from his work in several portfolios, including defence and the environment, Senator Faulkner forged a reputation for forensic questioning of those who appeared before Senate estimates committees.

He was described on Thursday by former party heavy weight and fellow inquisitor in Senate hearings, Robert Ray, as Labor’s “tower of strength” in the Senate, and one who played a critical but largely unrecognised role in the party’s recovery from the 1996 election defeat.

Senator Faulkner was also a confidant of several Labor leaders, regularly travelling with the leader as an adviser during election campaigns, and a Labor historian, forging a close friendship with Gough Whitlam.

“Although I am today giving notice of my intention not to renominate for the Senate, I do intend to continue representing – in ALP forums, in the community at large, and while I remain in the Parliament – the interests of the Labor Party, its membership, and those supporters who still vote for us,” Senator Faulkner said.

Declaring that his commitment to party reform and internal renewal remained undiminished, he vowed to argue forcefully for rule changes to address internal corruption and to “open up the closed factional processes of selecting Senate and NSW Legislative Council candidates”.

“No issue is more critical for Labor in NSW,” he said.

Labor’s NSW general secretary, Jamie Clements, defended the decision to proceed with Senate preselections. “It’s just a matter of getting candidates sorted early and getting people out in the field,” he said.

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