Ian Macfarlane joins those exiting at the election

Ian Macfarlane, who was industry minister in two Coalition governments, is retiring from politics. Lukas Coch/AAP

Former cabinet minister in the Howard and Abbott governments Ian Macfarlane has announced he will quit parliament at the election.

Last year Macfarlane, who was not included in the first Turnbull ministry, made a bold play to return to cabinet by seeking to switch to the Nationals. If he had succeeded, Saturday’s reshuffle would have seen him as the fourth National in the cabinet.

But the plan backfired and the Liberals had the numbers to have him blocked by the Queensland Liberal National Party state executive.

Macfarlane, who indicated when he was trying to switch parties that he had decided it was a question of pushing to be back in cabinet or leaving parliament, said in a statement on Monday that “the time is right to pass the baton”. He holds the seat of Groom.

Macfarlane, industry minister in both Coalition governments, said that after 32 years in agri-politics and politics, “I will now be looking for new challenges to use my wealth of knowledge and experience in the resources, industry and science sectors for the betterment of our great nation”.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, appointed by the Abbott government for a five-year term, has resigned to contest the Liberal preselection in the Victorian seat of Goldstein which Andrew Robb is leaving at the election.

Wilson said in a statement: “This is not a time to be timid. It’s a time to be bold. Our country faces big challenges: debt and deficits, high taxes and youth unemployment, to name a few.

"We need people in parliament who are prepared to take responsibility, make tough decisions and work to fix problems. I am ready to take that responsibility to protect this nation’s promise for future generations.”

He said he had lived in Goldstein and much of his family lived there. Georgina Downer, daughter of former Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer, has also been touted for Goldstein.

Attorney-General George Brandis said that “in just two years, Tim Wilson has single-handedly reshaped the human rights debate in Australia. He has restored balance to a debate which had previously been dominated by the priorities and prejudices of the Left”.

In NSW, former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock is also retiring at the election, as is former Nationals leader Warren Truss, who holds Wide Bay in Queensland.