Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes has confirmed he plans to step down in July, denying the decision is linked to a run for a seat in the Lower House.
Earlier media reports had speculated the union heavyweight and Labor power broker would seek a career in the private sector, then make a run for Parliament after last year losing an internal fight for a Senate seat left vacant by former foreign minister Bob Carr.
“I have always said that representing the AWU’s members is the highest honour I can imagine seeking. And so, despite what you may hear, I am not leaving this job to pursue a seat in parliament,” Howes said in a statement.
“I have spent half my life as an official in the trade union movement and the last seven years in this position,” he said. “I have always been aware that you never own this job; you only serve as custodian.”
Howes is considered a rising star within the ALP. His support for gay marriage and his links to the Jewish lobby were used against him by party colleagues, leading to his withdrawal from the internal race for the vacant Senate seat.
“Of course this has not been an easy decision to arrive at. But my primary consideration must be what is best for the organisation that has provided me with so much,” said Howes.
“I truly believe this is the right move for me, and for our Union.
“I know my decision may come as a surprise. But I was elected to this role seven years ago, at 26 years of age. I left school at 14, and commenced fulltime work in the union movement at 17.”
He will reportedly marry Qantas public relations executive Oliva Wirth in April.
The AWU is expected to come under scrutiny for its use of slush funds in the past, as part of an Abbott-government inquiry into the union movement.
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