03/01/2008 - 10:26

Matt Birney to retire from politics

03/01/2008 - 10:26

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Former Western Australian opposition leader Matt Birney announced today that he would be retiring from politics at the next state election, due in early 2009, to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

Matt Birney to retire from politics

Former Western Australian opposition leader Matt Birney announced today that he would be retiring from politics at the next state election, due in early 2009, to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

Mr Birney revealed he had been approached by a number of corporations with offers to jump ship from politics to business over the past twelve months, and had been seriously considering making the move during that time.

"Whilst I have resisted those offers to date, it is now my intention to pursue one or two non-executive directorships followed by an executive directorship in the corporate sector, post politics...I also have a number of private business interests that I wish to refocus on," he told reporters at Parliament House.

Mr Birney became the first Liberal in history to win the seat of Kalgoorlie in 2001, at a time when the Liberal Party was out of favour accross the state.

Ten months later he was promoted to the opposition front bench with the high profile police portfolio, and in 2005 became the youngest leader of the Liberal Party at the age of 35.

The announcement coincides with renewed speculation over the tenure of current opposition leader Paul Omodei, who has performed poorly in recent opinion polls, while deputy leader Troy Buswell has been widely touted as his successor.

On the Liberal's chances of winning the next election, Mr Birney would not be drawn on who would make the best leadership contender but conceded a Liberal win would be difficult, but not impossible.

"The people of Western Australia want to vote Liberal, they just need a good reason to do so."

Mr Birney said the lowest point of his political career was handing back the Liberal leadership in early 2006, after a party room vote which saw deputy leader Troy Buswell reportedly back Mr Omodei with a deciding vote and later apologise to Mr Birney for "misleading him".

However, Mr Birney was thought to have sealed his own fate following an adverse finding from a parliamentary privileges committee over the altering of his parliamentary financial interests register.

"I thought that I was capable of doing the things I was asked to do, but not everybody saw it that way. I gave the Liberal Party my best, they rejected that, and I respect that decision just as they will now have to repect mine to move on," Mr Birney said.

Even if he were offered the Liberal leadership, Mr Birney said he would not take it, and neither was he interested in a "safe seat" such as South Perth or Cottesloe- which had been the subject of past media speculation.

Mr Birney said he did not want to be viewed as a "political tragic", who did not want to go away.

"I leave politics happy, believe it or not...at the end of the day it's just a job and if you manage to get out having viewed it as a job rather than letting it take over your life then I think you'll be richer for it," he said.

Mr Birney said WA politics was crying out for someone who was confident enough to agree with their opponent when necessary, yet capable of forensically taking apart their worst policies when the need arose.

"I sincerely hope that the Liberal Party can find such a person to lead them back to the government benches."

Mr Birney said he would not rule out a return to politics or involvement with the Liberal party in the future, as he felt he still had some "unfinished business", but the time was now right to move on.

He also revealed that Mr Omodei had offered him a positon on the shadow cabinet when notified by Mr Birney of his decision to leave this morning.

Of his various battles, Mr Birney cited the introduction of daylight saving, convincing his Liberal colleagues to allow the government's disaggregation of Western Power to pass after they had previously voted against it, and convincing his colleagues to hold the line against Labor's One Vote, One Value legislation, as the hardest fought.

Prior to entering state politics, Mr Birney had a successful career in small business and at the age of 21, co-founded Goldfields Auto Spares with business partner Darral Black, which became a multi-million dollar business.

He also established an Essential Earth skin care franchise and set up a business providing small commercial premises for tradesmen.

Among his plans for the year ahead, Mr Birney said he and wife Kellee wished to start a family.


 

 

 

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