ALP national president Jenny McAllister will replace John Faulkner in the Senate when parliament resumes following the veteran Labor figure’s announcement that he is retiring after a quarter of a century in the upper house.
McAllister, who, like Faulkner, comes from the NSW left, is already preselected because Faulkner had earlier indicated he would not stand at the next election. She has been president since 2011, with her term expiring at next year’s party conference.
Faulkner told a news conference he had chalked up 35 years in full-time politics – he was a Labor party official before entering parliament. He was leader of the opposition in the Senate between 1996 and 2004, and served in two Labor governments and held five portfolios in total, including defence in 2009-10 under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
“I served in cabinet under three prime ministers [Paul Keating, Rudd and Gillard] and I leave as the last minister … who served in the life of the Hawke and Keating government,” he said. “It certainly is time to go.”
Faulkner has been one of the strongest voices for internal reform of the Labor Party. He said he would remain an active party member and support candidates, but he would not be a delegate to next year’s national conference and ruled out serving as the party’s national president.
“As a rank and file member, I will continue to be a strong advocate for party reform,” Faulkner said. Asked whether he had considered staying on for the conference so his voice for reform could be louder, he said he believed this was a good time for the new generation to step up and ensure they worked in Labor’s interests.
Known for his forensic and often devastating questioning at Senate estimates, Faulkner’s parting message to his colleagues was “don’t underestimate the importance of the mechanisms that are available to senators”.
“The Australian Senate has the best scrutiny mechanisms of any Australian parliament,” he said.
“And used effectively, they are of great benefit, not only to oppositions but also to governments. I can assure you that ministers and public servants at times try to ensure that they don’t cut any corners as they go about fulfilling their responsibilities.”
In his tribute to Faulkner, opposition leader Bill Shorten said: “His dedication to Senate estimates processes and a strong inquisitorial line of questioning to uncover wrong doing and public waste has been a staple of Canberra political life for many years. It is a high standard that all of us in the Labor caucus will carry forward in the years ahead.”
Faulkner advocated greater oversight, both parliamentary and non-parliamentary, of the intelligence and security agencies, and hoped colleagues would take up introducing a private member’s bill enhancing the role of the joint committee on intelligence and security that he had not had an opportunity to introduce at the end of the just-concluded session.
Faulkner said he wasn’t planning a book – there were enough on the shelves already – and once again refused to talk about what happened at the June 2010 meeting between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, in which he was a participant, on the night of the coup against the-then prime minister.