One of the nice guys of WA politics, Sports Minister Terry Waldron, will step down from Cabinet before Christmas after announcing he will retire from Parliament at the 2017 election.
Mr Waldron made the announcement flanked by nine of his Nationals colleagues at a sometimes teary and laughter-filled press conference this morning.
Nationals Leader Terry Redman paid tribute to Mr Waldron and revealed he had picked a replacement to be elevated to Cabinet, but would not reveal who it was ahead of discussions with Premier Colin Barnett.
Mr Waldron, a former WAFL footballer who served on the WA Football Commission, was elected as the member for Wagin in 2001 with a primary vote of 28 per cent.
By the last election in March 2013, he had more than doubled his personal vote to 63.68 per cent, turning Wagin into the safest seat in WA with a two party-preferred margin of 26 per cent.
This morning Mr Waldron, who is also the Minister for Racing and Gaming, said had always believed one could achieve more by getting on well with people.
“I think sometimes in politics we let politics override us sometimes,” he said.
“Really I’ve just tried to do the job. I’m probably not the most out-there political animal, but I try to work with people, I try to take people with me because I found in my life, that’s how I’ve been able to achieve things.
Terry Waldron during his press conference. Picture Ian Munro/The West Australian
“It’s a simple thing. We always talk to kids about respect and it’s up to us grown ups to make sure we show people respect as well. I’ve always tried to do that and I think that comes back and enables you to build relationships.”
This year Mr Waldron oversaw a review of the Liquor Control Act and recently handed down the Government’s response to it, ushering in reforms including midnight Sunday trading and drinks without meals in restaurants.
As Sports Minister, Mr Waldron won significant funding for a host of facilities including the State Netball Centre in Jolimont, a revamped Nib Stadium and the jewel in the crown of the Barnett Government’s infrastructure program – the Burswood Stadium.
Mr Waldron said infrastructure was important but it was the grassroots involvement in sport which gave him the most satisfaction, particularly his KidSport program which had paid for club fees for 36,000 children from financially-struggling families across the State.
“My biggest task was to convince my own Government as to the huge importance of sport and recreation, to convince them that we needed to invest more to understand the benefits from it,” he said.
Mr Waldron, who was deputy to former Nationals leaders Max Trenorden and Brendon Grylls, revealed he had discussed succession plans with Mr Grylls after the re-election of the Barnett Government in March 2013.
“We talked then about reviewing where we were at after two years. As you know Brendon made a decision (to stand down from Cabinet) a little earlier,” he said.
A recent overseas holiday had crystallised his decision.
“It’s my decision to stand down now. It’s been very much like when I played footy, and when I played cricket, you just sort of know when the time’s right,” Mr Waldron said.
He now wanted to spend more time with his four daughters, four granddaughters and wife Noelene.
“Noelene’s a little ripper,” he said.
Mr Redman said his colleague – who he shared an office in Parliament with for eight years – was leaving at the “top of his game” and was respected across the political divide for his integrity.
“There is no doubt that he will leave a legacy in the sport and rec sector,” he said.
Mr Barnett said he was very sorry to lose Mr Waldron from Cabinet.
“Terry Waldron has been a fantastic Sports Minister,” he said, citing his stewardship of stadium facilities’ construction and heralding KidSport as his greatest achievement.
Mr Barnett said under the Liberal National partnership agreement, the Nationals had the right to nominate Mr Waldron’s successor from within their ranks, but portfolio allocation would be up to him as Premier.
He would not consider that for several weeks’ time.