The Nationals MP George Christensen has announced he will not contest the next election, in a shock decision he attributed to the “broken” state of Australian politics and a desire to spend time with family.
Christensen revealed his intention to quit in a statement to the Courier Mail, since confirmed by Guardian Australia, arguing the time was right for him to give up representing the Mackay-based seat of Dawson.
Christensen will remain a member of the Coalition until the next poll but, even from the backbench, he could prove a handful for the Morrison government due to his outspoken views on topics including abortion.
In his statement, Christensen said he had only ever intended to “serve three terms” when he first ran for office in 2010, although he is already in his fourth term.
Christensen said he wanted to spend more time with his family – an apparent reference to his Filipina wife April Asuncion – who had been “caught up overseas” due to Covid-19 border closures.
“They’re here in the country now so I want to focus more on them going into the future,” he reportedly said.
Christensen is an outspoken reactionary conservative, most famous for trenchant criticism of the LGBTI equality program Safe Schools and empty threats to quit the Coalition when it was led by Liberal moderate Malcolm Turnbull.
Christensen’s backbench activism contributed to a revolt that forced the Turnbull government to call a banking royal commission and helped secure a mandatory code of conduct for Australia’s sugar industry.
In late 2018, Christensen identified himself as the federal MP who had come under federal police scrutiny for frequent travel to south-east Asia, but labelled the news reports a “disgusting smear campaign waged against me by my political opponents”.
Christensen also courted controversy by posting a photo to social media of himself posing with a handgun with the comment “Do you feel lucky, greenie punks?”
Christensen holds Dawson with a whopping 14.6% two-party preferred margin, likely putting it out of reach of even an ambitious Labor list of Queensland target seats.
In his statement, Christensen slammed Australia’s “broken” politics, which he said was “dominated by an activist mainstream media along with other leftists cultural institutions that are just so disconnected from the public”.
“I will have more to say about this down the track,” he said as reported by the Courier Mail.
“While I’m in parliament until the next election and while there’s still breath in me, I’m going to continue speaking out on the issues that matter, without fear or favour, or the need to get re-elected.”
Morrison’s second bid for re-election after his upset victory in 2019 will be made more difficult by the number of sitting MPs not re-contesting for the Liberal-National Coalition.
The former Liberal MP Craig Kelly has quit to sit on the crossbench, and the member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, will remain in the Liberal National party but has been disendorsed after a string of alleged online abuse incidents.