Labor MP Mike Kelly retires from politics for health reasons sparking a by-election
Federal Labor MP Mike Kelly is retiring from politics due to health reasons, prompting a by-election in his ultra-marginal seat of of Eden-Monaro in New South Wales.
The former army colonel, 60, has been battling kidney failure which saw him rushed to hospital for emergency surgery in October.
He attributes the failure to severe dehydration he suffered during his overseas military service.
Dr Kelly said he was devastated to be leaving politics.
‘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,’ he told the ABC on Thursday.
The by-election is expected to be a three-way contest between the Liberals, the Nationals and Labor, which holds the seat by a 0.9 per cent margin.
The Coalition will be hoping to snatch the seat as the Prime Minister’s poll ratings soar on the back of Australia’s success at handling COVID-19.
Bega mayor Kristy McBain is likely to run for Labor while NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is favourite for the Nationals.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Liberal senator Jim Molan have all been touted as possible Liberal Party candidates.
However, Mr Barilaro has said a three-cornered contest isn’t in the Coalition’s best interests.
Mr Barilaro says he wouldn’t run against Mr Constance, and will speak with his family over the weekend about having a tilt at federal politics.
‘I can’t rule it out, don’t rule it in,’ he told Sky News.
‘Everybody’s got to be honest with themselves and it will be something that I’ll weigh up over the next few days.’
Mr Barilaro’s state electorate covers the Queanbeyan area, where the majority of the Eden-Monaro population resides.
‘If I do this, I do this knowing I could be out of politics,’ he said.
Liberal senator Jim Molan says he’s considering all options.
Eden-Monaro was once considered a bellwether seat – going to the party that wins government – but Dr Kelly brought that to an end in 2016.
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek has praised her long-serving colleague.
‘He is a fantastic human being,’ she told the ABC.
‘He’s served Australia in many, many theatres of war, on the frontline overseas, extraordinarily brave, intelligent, compassionate man, who has contributed not just through his military career but made an extraordinary contribution in our federal parliament.’
Eden-Monaro also takes in the bushfire-hit town of Cobargo, whose residents gave Prime Minister Scott Morrison an extremely hostile reception earlier this year.