Greg Hunt has confirmed he will resign from politics, revealing his children had told him it was his last chance to be a proper dad.
Speaking on the last sitting day of parliament, he paid tribute to his wife Paula, a former nurse educator, and his two children, before announcing he would not contest the next election.
“She has raised two beautiful children, largely as a single mother, and I’m so immensely proud of Poppy, who is going into year 11 and James, who was about to go into senior school,” he said.
“They are both getting awards this week, and again I’m not there.
“But, they said to me, on Sunday, they looked at me, and they said, Dad, this is your last chance to be a proper Dad. And it’s time to come home, Dad.
“So, earlier today, I spoke with the Prime Minister and my electorate chairman and I informed them I would not be contesting the next election.”
Mr Hunt said he was confident in the systems in place to deal with the pandemic and it had been an “immense privilege” to help guide the nation’s response.
“But for all the time we have spent together, and as fond as I am of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, my card has always been elsewhere, to my family,” he said.
He said that his late father, Victorian state Liberal MP Alan Hunt, had always told him to honour the parliament and be a parliamentarian before a politician.
He also appeared to throw his support behind Zoe McKenzie, who was an adviser to Andrew Robb while he was trade minister, to replace him in his Victorian seat.
“It is time, subject to the will of the local branch members for a strong and brilliant woman to be the Liberal candidate for Flinders,” he said.
Mr Hunt said his most cherished possession was a letter from the mother of a little girl, Bella, who lived on a dairy and potato farm and had a rare condition that was terminal without treatment.
Because her condition was so rare her mother couldn’t get access to medicine in Australia but Mr Hunt said they asked the company that made it to provide compassionate access from overseas.
And they did.
He said he kept a letter written on Bella’s sixth birthday behind his desk.
“She is a changed little girl, most notable she is no longer in constant pain, she has started to build muscle and she has boundless new energy,” the letter read.
“If there had been nothing else in the last 20 years that alone would have been enough,” Mr Hunt said.
After Mr Hunt finished his speech, the entire chamber rose to its feet and applauded him.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Hunt had expressed his desire to spend more time with family before the last election – and they never would have imagined what was to happen next.
“Greg spoke to Josh (Frydenberg) and I before the last election, and expressed to us his desire to go and be with his family, we called upon him one last time. Not knowing, in full what those three years might bring,” he Mr Morrison said.
“And over the course of these particularly last two years, I have relied on nobody more than Greg and Josh as we have sought, together with the Deputy Prime Minister and his predecessor, to navigate our way through this very difficult time.
“I couldn’t have thought to have a no more brilliant mind, no greater friend, a person of great integrity, but most importantly, someone with a massive heart.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese described Mr Hunt’s two decades in parliament as a significant achievement.