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Labor veteran's surprise resignation

National

Former minister and veteran Labor senator Stephen Conroy has resigned from parliament, blindsiding his acting leader.

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Conroy tabled a resignation speech on Thursday just before 9pm but did not read it.

“You should always go out on top,” the speech began.

“This week as captain of the parliamentary soccer team I scored a hat trick. It must be time to say farewell.”

Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek was not aware of the retirement when asked about it today.

“I have only just heard of these reports,” she told reporters in Sydney this morning.

“I will have more discussions with Stephen later in the day.”

The Victorian senator and Chelsea supporter said he wanted to spend more time teaching his daughter Isabella soccer tricks.

“When you resent being in Canberra because you are missing your daughter’s soccer training it is time to retire from the federal parliament.”

Conroy, who entered the Senate in 1996, was communications minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments and has been a key Right faction ally of Bill Shorten.

The national broadband network had been his “greatest contribution”, but he also took credit for the free trade agreement with the United States.

“I take pride in the fact that without my active support it would not have passed into law,” he said.

He paid tribute to former prime minister Julia Gillard as well as sitting members Wayne Swan, Jenny Macklin and Plibersek.

“I will miss my friends and colleagues terribly – our Saturday morning chats, our Sunday night plane trips, our Wednesday night dinners. All made the burden of being away from our families a little more bearable.”

He and Shorten had been “friends, rivals and frenemies” but the leader should never be underestimated.

“As opposition leader, Bill has shown what I have always known – he is a resilient, smart, warm man of the people and for the people. He is Australia’s prime minister in waiting. I’m sorry I will not be alongside you in the federal parliament as you take your place in history.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said he was not surprised by the decision and had spoken with Conroy on Friday morning.

“I know how much all of us miss our families. We give up a lot by entering into either the House of Representatives or the Senate,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

“I know that the greatest joy in Stephen’s life has been the arrival of Bella and he will now have more time to spend with his wife and daughter.”

He paid tribute to the former minister who had an “outstanding legacy”.

Conroy is expected to formally resign on September 30 and won’t return for the next sitting of parliament starting on October 10.

AAP

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