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Greens pioneer stands aside as party charts a new trail

Politics

EXCLUSIVE | The SA Greens are expecting a rush of hopefuls for the party’s winnable state Upper House seat, after long-time Legislative Councillor Mark Parnell today declared he would not contest the next election.

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Parnell told InDaily he was flagging his intent to retire in 2022 now to help his party’s succession planning, with a vacant senate seat also up for grabs at the next federal election.

An email to party members this morning called on candidates for “both the federal and state elections” with “no incumbent Greens MPs contesting as senator Sarah Hanson-Young and MLC Tammy Franks are only mid-way through their terms and [Parnell] has advised he will not be re-contesting”.

He told InDaily: “It really is just a succession issue, rather than anything untoward.”

He said while “I would probably not make a decision this far out” it was important to flag the vacancy before the party preselected a senate candidate.

“I thought it was important for our members to know that there would not be an incumbent MP for either of those contests,” he said.

“I’m 60 – I’ve been doing it for 14 years… I’ll be 62 at the election, so committing to an eight year term [means I’ll be] 70.”

Parnell had heart surgery last year but insisted “my health issues are all resolved” and played no part in his decision.

“My cardiologist doesn’t want to see me again for a year and I’m back cycling and running the mountain trails again,” he said.

“I’ll run a couple of half-marathons later this year, but another start in the 56kms Yurrebilla ultra-marathon might have to wait until next year…

“I know that in this space there is always speculation as to the ‘real’ reason, but there isn’t anything to my decision other than that I’ve had great run and I think it’s time to give someone else a chance.”

Former Senator – and current city councillor – Robert Simms is considered likely to contest either the state or federal vacancy, but he told InDaily: “I don’t want to comment on that today.”

Longtime state Greens adviser Yesha Joshi is another expected to run, confirming today: “I have experience working in state parliament, and it’s obviously something I’m considering.”

Prominent employment academic Barbara Pocock, who ran for the seat of Adelaide at last year’s federal poll, declared on her Facebook page that she would nominate for the senate ticket.

State Convenor John Wishart told InDaily in a statement Parnell had “advised party members today that he will not be seeking re-election at the next SA state election”.

“Mark has been a wonderful representative since first being elected in 2006… a champion of better environmental and  planning laws, workers rights and social justice,” he said.

“He has been a principled and effective advocate for a better society and a sustainable future.

“The state election will be held in March 2022, so there’s  plenty on Mark’s plate to finish off before his term of office ends.

“A vote of all Greens party members in SA will be held to choose his successor.”

Parnell said it had been a “huge privilege to have been both a founding member of the party and the first Green elected in South Australia”.

“I honestly had no idea back in 1995 when Penny [Wright, wife and former Greens senator] and I invited 10 friends around to our place for a chat about politics, that we were at the ground floor of a movement that would see Greens elected to both state and federal parliaments within a dozen years,” he said.

“I’m proud of what we have achieved, but there is still much more to do.”

That includes a push to abolish the “Oath of Allegiance”, requiring SA MPs, judges “and even police officers” to swear “true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law” before they can take up their roles.

Parnell will be moving a motion to remove the requirement, which he says NSW already did 20 years ago.

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