Federal Politics

Philip Ruddock to retire from politics for human rights role

Philip Ruddock is calling time on his 42-year political career to become Australia's first special envoy for human rights.

More News Videos

Philip Ruddock announces retirement

Father of the House Philip Ruddock will retire at the next election to be Australia's envoy on human rights. Vision ABC News 24.

The 72-year-old former immigration minister and attorney-general announced on Monday he would not recontest his safe Sydney seat of Berowra.

The move followed months of speculation about his future and jockeying among potential replacements in the blue ribbon electorate, including his former staffer - and current next-door neighbour - Julian Leeser.

Retiring: Liberal MP Philip Ruddock - and father of House - during question time on Monday.
Retiring: Liberal MP Philip Ruddock - and father of House - during question time on Monday. Photo: Andrew Meares

"I am humbled to have enjoyed such strong support for my involvement in federal politics for over 42 years," Mr Ruddock said.

He is currently the father of the House of Representatives, meaning he is the longest-serving member in the lower house and, indeed, the Parliament. He is the only current sitting MP who began his career in the Whitlam era.


A short time after news of Mr Ruddock's retirement broke, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced his new job.

"As a distinguished member of the Australian Parliament for over four decades, the current chair of the parliamentary joint committee on human rights and a longstanding member of Amnesty International, Mr Ruddock is well-qualified to advocate and represent Australia's human rights views and record," Ms Bishop said.

Mr Ruddock, as immigration minister, and with then prime minister John Howard.
Mr Ruddock, as immigration minister, and with then prime minister John Howard. 

"As special envoy, Mr Ruddock will focus on advancing Australia's human rights priorities of good governance, freedom of expression, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, and national human rights institutions."

Mr Ruddock will actively promote Australia's candidacy for membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term and represent Australia at international human rights events, Ms Bishop said.

Mr Ruddock wearing his Amnesty pin on Monday.
Mr Ruddock wearing his Amnesty pin on Monday. Photo: Andrew Meares

The role will be consistent with the practice of past governments in approving special envoys to support international campaigns, she said.

Mr Ruddock called it an "important opportunity" to serve Australia's interests and advance the quest to rid the world of the death penalty.

Mr Ruddock with Liberal leader John Hewson in 1992.
Mr Ruddock with Liberal leader John Hewson in 1992. Photo: Sandy Scheltema

He has long been a staunch opponent of the death penalty but his human rights record has been questioned in other areas.

As immigration minister he was one of the chief architects of the Howard government's Pacific Solution and was tainted by the children overboard affair.

In 2000, Amnesty controversially asked Mr Ruddock to stop wearing his Amnesty lapel badge while performing his duties. Mr Ruddock's daughter was so distressed by her father's hardline approach, she left the country to volunteer for an aid agency. 

Mr Ruddock on Monday said he had "no regrets".

He is tipped to be replaced by Mr Leeser, an outspoken commentator who currently works as a director at the Australian Catholic University.

Mr Ruddock said Mr Leeser's reported threats to challenge him for pre-selection had nothing to do with his decision to retire. But he also refused to back Mr Leeser for the job.

"My view is that they should choose the best candidate who offers for preselection and that's always been my view," he said.

Other long-serving Liberal MPs, such as former speaker Bronwyn Bishop are also under pressure to move on. Mrs Bishop has indicated she intends to stay on.

Follow us on Twitter