Philip Ruddock To Quit Politics, Become UN Human Rights Envoy

08/02/2016 3:50 PM AEDT | Updated February 8, 2016 16:55
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CANBERRA -- Philip Ruddock, the 'Father of the House' as the longest-serving member of the federal House of Representatives, has announced he will not stand for his seat of Berowra at the next election.

Instead, the man who oversaw an extension of mandatory detention for unauthorised arrivals and masterminded the controversial 'Pacific Solution' in the early 2000s will head to the United Nations to become Australia's first special envoy for human rights.

The Australian newspaper had reported earlier on Monday that Ruddock, aged 72, was set to announce his retirement from federal politics in coming days, to steer a push to get Australia a seat on the U.N.'s Human Rights council. Around an hour-and-a-half after the report was published online, foreign minister Julie Bishop announced the new position for Ruddock.

"As a distinguished member of the Australian Parliament for over four decades, the current Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, and a longstanding member of Amnesty International, Mr Ruddock is well-qualified to advocate and represent Australia’s human rights views and record," Bishop said in a statement.

"As Special Envoy, Mr Ruddock will focus on advancing Australia’s human rights priorities of good governance, freedom of expression, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, and national human rights institutions.Mr Ruddock will actively in promote Australia’s candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2018-20 term. He will represent Australia at international human rights events and advocate our HRC candidacy in selected countries."

Soon after, Ruddock made an announcement of his own, on Twitter.

"The role [of special envoy] will, of necessity, require periods of travel abroad from now until the time of the next federal election. In order for me to devote myself to this task fully I cannot be active in a national political campaign and give effective time to my own re-election," Ruddock wrote.

"For these reasons I have come to the view that I should not seek re-endorsement for the seat of Berowra."

Ruddock entered the House of Representatives in 1973, and has been its longest-serving member since 1998. He was known as the architect of the 'Pacific Solution,' which saw refugee arrivals shipped to island detention centres in the Pacific Ocean, for which Australia has been widely criticised for over the intervening years.

In recent years, Ruddock has emerged as a popular figure on social media; obsessively sharing his Fitbit statistics and news of a Macca's run with Eric Abetz, rocking a safari suit in parliament, and trying out Snapchat with Buzzfeed.

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