HIGH-PROFILE Labor frontbencher Kate Ellis will quit federal politics at the next election, saying she wants to spend more time in Adelaide with her nearly two-year-old son.
Ms Ellis has made the dramatic announcement in letters sent to the 60,000 homes in her electorate overnight, and confirmed the shock call to TheAdvertiser.com.au this morning.
Ms Ellis, 39, was unexpectedly elected the member for Adelaide in 2004 and has held the inner-city marginal seat in four further campaign. She is currently federal Labor’s early childhood and development spokeswoman and would have been a minister if the government changes.
Ms Ellis said she wanted to give up the relentless travel of a federal politician and be able to spend more time with son Sam as he went through formative moments in a young life.
“I don’t want to be spending 20 weeks of the year in a different state to my child,” she told TheAdvertiser.com.au. “It’s really hard. I’m really sad about it because I know how lucky I am to have a job that I love and I’m so grateful for the faith that the community has put in me.
“It’s sad to have to leave, but if this government runs full term I would have had the opportunity to spend 15 years as the Member for Adelaide, and that’s pretty substantial.”
The next federal election is expected to be held late next year, or during 2019.
Labor holds federal Adelaide on a margin of 4.7 per cent.
Ms Ellis said flagging her intentions early gave the party time to find a strong replacement.
“The seat of Adelaide is always close, but I’ll certainly be doing everything I can to help support Labor and to advocate my belief that Bill Shorten should become the Prime Minister,” she said.
“Perhaps, when I don’t have any personal stake in that, people will see I’m really genuine.”
Ms Ellis said she planned to start a new career, and did not rule out a move to state politics.
“I figure, with almost 15 years experience in the Parliament and almost 10 of that on the frontbench, that I’ve picked up some great skills and experiences,” she said.
“I hope that they can be used somewhere, but it will be a whole new adventure.
“I don’t know what that looks like, but I’m yet to turn 40 and there’s time for a new career.”
Asked about a move to State Parliament, she said: “Never say never, but I’ve certainly got no plans as such. I think that we’re looking for change.
In the letter to constituents, Ms Ellis says: “This has been a really hard decision for me”.
“In the end it is a decision that I have made for only one simple reason,” she writes.
“Whilst my son could travel with me as a baby, during the next term of Parliament he will start school and need to stay in Adelaide. The simple truth is that I just cannot bear the thought of spending at least 20 weeks of every year in Canberra away from him and the rest of my family.
“When I think about having to regularly miss things like his first day at school, his presentations at school assembly, a first sporting match or even just being there for him when he is sick and wants his mum, I know that it would make me absolutely miserable.
“I am telling you this now because I have always worked to be upfront with our community. I have no intention of causing a by-election or walking away from the job I was elected to do.
“I absolutely intend to represent the people of Adelaide to the best of my ability for the months and years until the next federal election. I know that there are many important issues.”
Originally published as Labor MP Kate Ellis quits politics