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By Gee, Champion set to seek swap to state politics

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SA Labor backbencher Jon Gee will pull the pin on his political career, paving the way for long-serving federal MP Nick Champion to make the shift to state politics.

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Champion, first elected to the northern seat of Wakefield – now Spence – in 2007, has been contemplating a shift to state parliament for some time, with InDaily reporting in September that he was eyeing off the safe seat of Light after its incumbent Tony Piccolo declared he would contest neighbouring Schubert instead.

But that move fell through when an expected boundary redraw giving Labor a chance at snaring Schubert didn’t eventuate, and Piccolo opted to stay put.

However, a sudden change of heart from Taylor MP and former Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Gee will see him vacate his northern suburbs seat which includes Elizabeth North, Andrews Farm, Penfield, Edinburgh and Two Wells, paving the way for Champion to enter state parliament.

That’s despite Gee telling InDaily in December he intended to recontest his seat at the March 2022 state election.

However, in a statement today he told InDaily: “After significant reflection over the Christmas and New Year period, I have decided I will retire from politics at the 2022 state election.”

He said it had been “the greatest honour to serve the people of Taylor, and before that Napier, since being elected to Parliament in 2014”.

“Spending time in my community has always been a highlight of the job,” he said.

“It was a privilege to serve in a great Labor Government and I will continue to do everything I can to ensure the election of a Malinauskas Labor Government in 2022.”

Champion stopped short today of declaring his candidacy, but told InDaily: “Over the next few months as state and federal preselections are finalised, I will consult with branch members, unions and the leadership of the Labor Party about where I can make the most meaningful contribution to the Labor cause.”

“The announcement of retirement by Jon Gee is significant for both the northern suburbs and the Labor Party,” he said in a statement.

“Jon has made a great contribution to the union movement, the Labor Party and the parliament over the last three decades – it’s vital that Taylor has a Labor candidate with a proven track record of fighting for and delivering to the northern suburbs.”

It’s understood the AMWU will have a say in who runs in the seat, with state secretary Peter Bauer not responding to inquiries today.

But Gee’s automotive branch of the union has been sidelined in recent years, since the demise of Mitsubishi and Holden and the rise in shipbuilding shifted the balance of power in the AMWU.

Gee said today he had “spent much of my career supporting people in the automotive industry – first in the union, then as State President of the ALP and then as a Member of Parliament”.

“The closure of Holden and the broader automotive industry has been devastating, but I hope over the past few years I have been able to do my bit to help as many people as possible transition to new careers.”

Malinauskas thanked Gee for his service “to the Labor Party and the broader labour movement”, calling him a “champion for the people of the northern suburbs”.

He entered parliament by default in 2014 – ironically after then-Premier Jay Weatherill intervened to prevent another federal Right-winger entering state politics.

On that occasion it was factional heavyweight Don Farrell, whose aborted bid for Napier after losing his senate seat saw Gee fill a sudden vacancy, later shifting to Taylor when controversial ex-minister Leesa Vlahos attempted to swap to the Upper House before resigning altogether.

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