Speaker Peter Wellington to bow out of politics
PETER Wellington, the independent Member for Nicklin, will step away from politics at the end of his current term.
The Queensland Speaker, made a brief statement at the end of the first sitting week of the new parliamentary year.
He said he was stepping down to support his elderly parents who live next to him and his wife Jenny on the Belli Park farm on which he was raised, west of Eumundi.
The former police officer, solicitor and Maroochy Shire Councillor entered State Parliament in 1998, coincidently during the first coming of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party.
He will leave it as One Nation appears on course to reshape Queensland politics with latest polling suggesting it could win up to 20 seats in a state election due by early next year.
Mr Wellington has twice played king maker by supporting minority Labor governments in 1998 and then again in 2015.
He said with fixed four-year terms to be introduced with the new parliament he was concerned that if anything untoward happened in relation to his parents, who are now well into their 80s, he would have to resign, forcing a by-election.
"My parents are elderly and need my time," he said.
"I've been proud to be the Member but family comes first. I would never have been here without the support of my wife.
"Being a parliamentarian is a full-time job and my parents are going to need me."
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said no independent MP had made a bigger contribution to Queensland than the Member for Nicklin.
"Fittingly, Mr Wellington is the first independent Speaker of the Queensland Parliament," she said.
"He has a great respect for the democratic and parliamentary process, and importantly he encouraged others to do the same.
"Since 1998, he has worked hard to ensure transparency and stability of government in Queensland.
"Peter explained to me the family reasons for his decision to not re-contest the next State election. I thank him for that.
"I respect his decision and I look forward to continuing to work with him as Speaker and Member for Nicklin over the next 12 months."
Mr Wellington said in his time as Speaker he has functioned effectively, reducing the office's running costs by $200,000.
"People may not like my politics but I can still hold my head high as someone who has conducted himself with dignity," he said.
"There are a lot of people in politics who do want to help. I've been honoured to have spent time and made a difference.
"There are people throughout Queensland who have come to me and got better outcomes through my involvement."
Mr Wellington said he had two options in 2015 and had no regrets about the decision he made to help Annastacia Palaszczuk form government.
"Annastacia Palaszczuk is a good woman who is doing the best she can," he said.
"If I had the option again I would do it again."
Mr Wellington said he had maintained a good relationship with the Premier's office and staff who had done the best they could under difficult circumstances to honour commitments given him in an exchange of letters signed off on February 5, 2015.
And he challenged Opposition parties and voters to not just complain, but to put forward practical doable solutions to problems.
"I see a lot of complaining," Mr Wellington said. "But not genuine doable solutions."
He is the second Sunshine Coast politician to step back from the political front line in as many weeks with Maroochydore (LNP) MP Fiona Simpson moving out of the shadow cabinet to spend more time with her ill father. She has made clear she will recontest her seat.
Mr Wellington said he was making his position public early to allow the best people time to come forward to contest the seat.
He made clear he had not lost his passion for the job and that he would continue to be involved with the community.
Mr Wellington defeated long-serving National Party member Neil Turner to enter State Parliament in June, 1998, as an Independent and became critical to Peter Beattie's bid to wrest power from a patched together Coalition of Liberals, Nationals, One Nation MPs and independents.
Mr Wellington supported Labor on matters of supply and confidence allowing Peter Beattie and Labor's 44 seats to form government.
The arrangement lasted only a matter of months before a by-election forced by the resignation of One Nation member Charles Rappolt saw Warren Pitt elected to the North Queensland seat of Mulgrave giving Labor government in its own right.
In 2001 Mr Wellington was severely injured when a tractor rolled on him on his Belli Park farm, pinning him underneath for several hours crushing both legs and breaking his pelvis and collarbone and causing head injuries.
Early fears he may lose both legs were allayed as he made a full recovery to return to parliament only a few months later.
In the elections of 2004 and 2006 respectively he dominated securing respectively 59.52% and 59.69% of the primary vote.
Despite a big spending LNP challenge with candidate John Connolly in 2012 he was able to hang on to convert a 39.14% primary vote into a 54.88% to 45.12% win after preferences.
Then in 2015 he lifted 43.79% of the primary vote to a two-party preferred total of 64.89% after preferences against new LNP candidate Matt Trace.
That victory again placed Mr Wellington in the position to determine who would govern Queensland.
A fierce critic of the Newman Government, once urging voters to number every box and put the LNP last, he was reluctant to allow a new government to form with so many Newman-term ministers in its ranks.
Instead Mr Wellington, in an exchange of letters with Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, sought assurances on a number of issues, some relating to state wide matters and others particular to the Sunshine Coast.
Among these were opposition to asset sales, commitment to using parliament's committee structure to test proposed legislation, real time reporting on political donations which were to be limited to $1000 and a new chair for the Crime and Corruption Committee.
He also won a commitment to protect communities objecting to mining developments from harsh financial cost and a review of the laws around payments to subcontractors in the construction industry.
Mr Wellington also won commitments to an equitable allocation of infrastructure costs at Caloundra South, ensured that Beerwah East was retained in the SEQ Regional Plan as the identified growth area, secured disability access to Nambour rail station and a full cost benefit analysis of the North Coast line upgrade which is now being considered as part of the 2016-17 Budget process.
His political career has been sustained by an underlying trust among voters that he was there to serve the community.
That was re-enforced by his commitment to volunteer-based organisations in his electorate which saw him not only serve as patron but literally serve the community through involvement with groups like Meals on Wheels.
Those connections gave birth to the legendary Wellington's Army who would rally each election to man pre-polling booths, hand out How to Vote cards and to work on election days.