Victorian ALP heavyweight Stephen Conroy resigned on Thursday night just two months into a new six-year term, after more than 20 years in the Senate.
His political career in Canberra will end on September 30. Since May, Conroy and his office have been the subjects of an investigation by the Australian Federal Police over suspected leaks to the media about the National Broadband Network (NBN). He spend six years as the minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy during the Rudd and Gillard governments, establishing the initial rollout of the NBN.
But no one noticed the looming departure of the former minister until Friday morning because he simply tabled his farewell speech just before 9pm at the end of a three-hour debate on the government’s $6 billion “omnibus” savings bill.
At 8.53pm, the deputy leader of the Opposition in the Senate rose and simply said:
Could I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Senator Cormann for his constructive approach to resolving some of the difficult issues. Both sides were involved in a little bit of give and take but the approach taken by Senator Cormann speaks volumes for him.
As it is very late, I seek leave to table the rest of my contribution so we can move on.
His tabled farewell speech begins “You should always go out on top. This week as Captain of the Parliamentary Soccer team I scored a hat trick. It must be time to say farewell.”
Along with his thanks for colleagues and the team the parliamentary cafe, Aussies, Conroy meditates on the impact of politics on family life, saying “I’m sure you would all agree that there should be a special place in hell for those who judge women based on their spouse’s work”.
Conroy explained he wanted to be there for his nine-year-old daughter, Isabella, like his father, a shift worker who never missed 10 years of his son’s weekend soccer games.
“She increasingly misses me when I can’t be at soccer training or a match. She would love me to attend at least one assembly a year and be there when she gets an award,” he said.
“I always vowed that I would be there for Isabella like my dad was for me. At Father’s Day at her school recently Bella had to write about her Dad. She wrote that she loved it when her Dad taught her new soccer tricks.
“When you resent being in Canberra because you are missing your daughter’s soccer training it is time to retire from the Federal Parliament.
“It’s time for me to hang up my boots as Captain of the Parliamentary Soccer team and spend more time teaching Isabella soccer tricks.”
Conroy’s departure caught his own colleagues by surprise too.
Labor leader Bill Shorten, currently overseas, paid tribute saying “his vision for a first-rate, fibre National Broadband Network for Australia speaks for his deeply-held passion for using technology to grow our economy and serve the interests of working people”.
“He goes with my goodwill, my best wishes and my thanks for his service.”
Another former boss paid tribute too:
Stephen Conroy knows how to surprise! My fondest regards to Stephen, Paula and Isabella as they start the next stage of their lives. – JG.
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) September 16, 2016
And his wife, Paula Benson:
Stephen Conroy. Brilliant Minister & Labor warrior. Amazing Dad, husband & friend. So proud of all you have done. Happier to have you home.
— Paula Benson (@PaulaBensonAust) September 16, 2016
Here’s the moment when Conroy called it quits to teach his daughter soccer tricks:
— Alice Workman (@workmanalice) September 16, 2016
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