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Stephen Smith resigns from politics
Stephen Smith resigns from politics

Federal WA Labor MP Stephen Smith has announced his retirement from politics.

Mr Smith, the member for Perth and Defence Minister, told Parliament this afternoon that he would not recontest his seat at the next election.

A strong Gillard supporter, Mr Smith told parliament he had advised new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd he would be willing to continue as Defence Minister until then.

He has served as member for Perth since 1993.

“Twenty years is a long time for any member of parliament. Six years is along time on the executive. But this may be something only Western Australians can understand,” he said.

“I cannot in all good conscience say to the people of Perth that I can continue to do, win lose or draw at the next election for another three years. Twenty years I can do, 23 years I can't.”

Mr Smith thanked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former prime minister Julia Gillard for the opportunities to serve as foreign minister and defence minister.

“I am very proud of what I have sought to do together with the leadership of the defence force in regard defence culture and treatment of women,” he said.

Mr Smith said he was always impressed with the quality of senior civil servant and defence personnel in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Defence.

He has served with two defence chiefs - Angus Houston and David Hurley - and has presided over more deaths of Australian personnel than any defence minister since Vietnam.

“It's at those moments when you look into the chief's eyes and you see the integrity, the decency and the commitment of those two individuals. They are both Australians of whom we can be proud,” he said.

Mr Smith said current defence department secretary Denis Richardson was one of Australia's all-time great civil servants and every government has been well-served by his frank and fearless advice.

Mr Rudd said it was an elegant conclusion to an extraordinary career as one of the few Australian politicians who had served as both defence and foreign minister.

“We are going to be poorer for your absence as an institution and not just as the Australian Labor Party,” he said.