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Key independent MPs to quit politics

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Key federal independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott have announced they will not be contesting the September 14 election.

A clearly emotional Windsor says he has a health issue that needs to be addressed.

“I don’t really want to be here in three years’ time,” he told reporters in Canberra today, referring to the parliament.

Windsor said there was a number of reasons for his decision.

“As much as I like election campaigns, my wife doesn’t,” he said.

“I do have a health issue that’s currently being investigated.”

Windsor said his family did not want him to stand again for the seat of New England.

“My youngest son, who’s only 21, who’s never known me as anything else than a politician, I’d like to take him to Africa.”

Windsor acknowledged that some people would say he was quitting to avoid an election defeat.

“There’s other things I want to do,” he said.

The MP said the vitriol surrounding the hung parliament had impacted on his family.

“I’ve enjoyed 10 years in state parliament and I’ve loved the 12 years in this place,” he said.

Earlier today, fellow independent MP Rob Oakeshott, whose crucial support helped Labor form the minority government after the 2010 election, announced he would not contest the September 14 election.

The member for the seat of Lyne has told his local newspaper he wants to spend more time with his family and had achieved his goals in parliament.

“Now is the moment,” he told the Macleay Argus on Wednesday.

“I have done everything I said I was going to do and done the best I can.”

Oakeshott, who held the NSW north-coast seat of Lyne for five years, denied his decision was prompted by fear of losing at the upcoming federal election.

There was “no question” the past three years had been the toughest of his life, and he accepted some of his critics would suggest he was running away from the challenge.

“Those who throw opinions around and try to bully and push members of parliament from the sidelines – they’re nothing,” he said.

Oakeshott became the youngest serving MP in NSW politics after narrowly winning a 1996 by-election for the seat of Port Macquarie for the National Party.

In 2002 he resigned from the Nationals, before being re-elected for his NSW seat as an independent the following year.

He made a tilt at federal politics in impressive fashion, claiming a landslide victory in the by-election for Lyne in 2008.

It was the first time the seat had been taken from the National Party in almost 60 years.

Following the 2010 election, Oakeshott joined fellow NSW rural independent MP Tony Windsor in fierce negotiations with both Labor and the coalition as both sides tried to woo their support.

Eventually however he announced he would provide confidence and supply to Labor, giving them a majority 76 votes in the 150-seat lower house and helping form the hung 43rd parliament.

His departure from Lyne will open up the seat to either Country Labor’s Peter Alley, the Australian Greens Ian Oxenford and the Nationals David Gillespie – the latter being the favourite.

Oakeshott said he was concerned about the future of his electorate, but in the end he “can’t be responsible for that”.

“A big part of my difficulty in letting go is that there is a sense of obligation that succession planning as a community is not looking good,” he said.

There was still work to be done in his region, and many in his electorate were encouraging him to stay on.

But after 17 years in public life, Oakeshott said his number one priority now would be as a father, not a federal MP in a knife-edge parliament.

“I’m tired of it and I’ve got a family I love and that I’m sick of being away from,” he said.

“You only get one crack at being a father who’s around.”

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