FEDERAL Labor MP Mike Kelly pulled out of the electoral race for Eden-Monaro this morning as the lead to his Liberal rival Peter Hendy stretched out to over 900 votes with less than five per cent of the vote still to count.
Dr Kelly served two terms as Member for Eden-Monaro, elected as part of the first Rudd Government in 2007, and concluding his career as Minister for Defence Materiel.
He held a press conference in Queanbeyan Town Park this morning to concede defeat.
“I felt that it was time to end that uncertainty given that the trend does not look good for us,” Dr Kelly said.
“We were getting some good results in terms of absentee votes, but the situation with postal votes was trending the wrong way. So I think it’s time that we end that uncertainty, and that the incoming MP Peter Hendy be given his opportunity to get to work as soon as possible.”
Dr Kelly thanked his family, his staff and the wider electorate for supporting him over the last six years, and said he was proud to be part of a “great, progressive Labor movement.”
“I think back on Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about the man in the arena, and none of have been among those “old and timid souls, who know neither the taste of victory or defeat,” he said.
“And it is rewarding to fight a worthy cause no matter the outcome, because in your own mind you feel you have done your best and you have made a contribution to progress, which is a continuum.
“It’s part of a great, progressive Labor movement of over a century of activity, building on a platform of men and women who sacrificed so much over those years. It was a privilege to be part of that story. I have no regrets about that,” he said.
Dr Kelly said he was proud of being part of the Government that managed a path through the Global Financial Crisis and some major natural disasters, but said internal leadership tension inside Labor had cost him dearly at the ballot.
“It’s not easy to manage your way through that and be a reformist government as well, and I’m extremely proud that we did navigate our way through those challenges while at the same time taking on some great reform pieces.
“At the end of the day we were fighting against a successful narrative the Coalition ran on debt and deficit, even though we knew there was no substance to that.
“And also obviously our leadership and unity issues played out badly as well.”
Dr Kelly was joined by his wife Shelly and son Ben in Queanbeyan this morning.
“You couldn’t do this without the support of your family,” he said.
“They always create this sort of safe bubble that you can climb inside and defend yourself against some of the thornier moments of a life like this.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hendy has refused to claim victory in the seat, though conceded that his success was likely due to “dysfunction of government”.
“It was concerns about having stable government in Canberra,” he told ABC Radio this morning.