Scott Morrison resigns, sets up by-election a year out from federal election

Scott Morrison, who served as the 30th prime minister of Australia between 2018 and 2022, has resigned from parliament after 16 years, paying tribute to his family and announcing his next steps.

The Cook MP, who served as leader between 2018-2022, said he would leave politics at the end of February, setting up a by-election a year out from the next federal election.

In a lengthy statement, Mr Morrison, 55, paid tribute to his family – wife Jenny and daughters Lily and Abbey – who he said “have sacrificed a great deal to support my service to our country and local community”.

“I am grateful for their support, but the time has come for me to return to my private life and support my family to pursue their goals and for us to spend more time together as a family,” he said.

“I am also looking forward to being more active in my church community outside the constraints of public office.”

Mr Morrison said it had been his “great privilege” to represent his Cook constituents and noted the decision to leave had been “difficult”.

“However, I believe the timing is now right to move on to a new season with my family and take on fresh challenges,” he said.

He said he was taking up “a series of global strategic advisory roles and private boards, focused on the US and Indo-Pacific, drawing on his experience and networks in the region, in particular through AUKUS and the Quad”.

Mr Morrison paid tribute to his staff and parliamentary colleagues over the years for their friendship and support.

“Especially my deputy leader Josh Frydenberg and deputy PMs Michael McCormack and Barnaby Joyce. I also want to wish Peter Dutton and his team all the very best and congratulate him on the great job he has done leading our party and the Coalition since the last election,” he said.

“I have made this announcement about my parliamentary departure today to give my party time to engage in a proper and inclusive process to select a new candidate for the Liberal Party in Cook. I hope to see, and invite, a strong field of candidates to bring their experience, passion and dedication to our community to the job. I look forward to supporting that successful candidate in their local campaign, along with (Mr) Dutton and his deputy Sussan Ley who are doing a great job holding the Albanese Labor government to account and providing a clear alternative to lead Australia forward.”

Mr Morrison will make a formal valedictory address to parliament when it resumes in early February before he officially retires.

Sutherland Shire Mayor Camello Pesce has been named as a potential candidate to replace Mr Morrison in Canberra once preselection opens.

Former Bennelong candidate Simon Kennedy, former NSW premier Mike Baird and party member Alex Cooke have also been touted as possible contenders for pre-selection.

First elected to the southern Sydney electorate in 2007, Mr Morrison entered cabinet as immigration minister in 2013 and was responsible for Operation Sovereign Borders.

He was promoted to social services minister in late 204 and then treasurer a year after under Malcolm Turnbull before assuming top office.

Mr Morrison would go on to roll Mr Turnbull for the top job after defeating both Mr Dutton and Julie Bishop in a leadership spill called for by Mr Dutton.

During his tenure, Mr Morrison went on an infamous holiday to Hawaii with his wife and daughters while parts of Australia were battered by bushfires in the 2019/20 summer.

Months later, Mr Morrison would begin steering Australia through the Covid-19 pandemic, forming national cabinet in the process.

Mr Morrison spent much of the post-election loss in the spotlight after it was revealed he had given himself control of five additional ministerial portfolios while prime minister without the knowledge of the ministers.

In July, Mr Morrison was the subject of adverse findings in the robodebt royal commission – to which he has denied all wrongdoing.

He was a key architect of the AUKUS trilateral defence pact with the US and the UK, which his colleagues say is his major legacy.

“I am thankful to all those who supported me in what we were able to achieve in government, from the early days of stopping the boats to delivering tax cuts for individuals (stages 1, 2 and 3) and small business, leading Australia successfully through the global pandemic, saving lives and livelihoods, and delivering AUKUS, the single most significant defence agreement in seventy years,” Mr Morrison said.

“There will be time later to speak of these achievements and thank everyone involved, including my parliamentary colleagues, when I leave the parliament. Today, my priority is to express my deep gratitude to my community and my family for supporting me to do this job for as long as I have. It has been an honour”.

Mr Dutton praised his former leader for his “service to our nation, his dedication to the Liberal Party, and for his personal friendship” and wished him well for his next chapter.

“In the time he led our country, Scott presided over some of the most difficult challenges an Australian prime minister has known since the Second World War, most notably Covid-19,” Mr Dutton said.

“Thanks to Scott’s quick decision to close the border, Australian lives were saved. And thanks to his government’s JobKeeper package, more than one million businesses were

supported and more than four million Australians had their jobs saved.”

Mr Dutton said Mr Morrison had been a champion of providing “millions of dollars” in military and humanitarian aid, notably to Ukraine.

“But if there is a standout achievement of his government, it was the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. AUKUS will underpin our defence and deterrence for decades to come,” Mr Dutton said.

In May, it was revealed Mr Morrison – a devout Pentecostal Christian – had clinched a book deal with a US-based Christian publishing company.

Mr Morrison will release his book – Plans for Your Good, A Prime Minister’s Testimony of God’s Faithfulness – in May, with a foreword by former US vice president Mike Pence.

Mr Morrison’s retirement would mean the opposition would face its fourth by-election since losing last May’s election after former cabinet members Alan Tudge and Stuart Robert – both named alongside Mr Morrison in the robodebt royal commission – resigned from Aston and Fadden respectively.

A third by-election in the seat of Dunkley will take place on March 2 after the death of Labor MP Peta Murphy following a battle with breast cancer.

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