CANBERRA -- After a 17-year parliamentary career, the straight-talking, almost accidental Speaker Anna Burke has announced she is to retire from politics at the next election.
The Labor member for the marginal Melbourne-based federal seat Chisholm, who became Australia's second female Speaker after Peter Slipper was forced to step down in disgrace, said “the time has come” in a statement on Tuesday.
Burke said she is “not running away from the prospect of facing a Malcolm Turnbull-led coalition,” but declared she can’t longer guarantee putting "100 percent" effort into the job.
“I’m leaving because you have to go sometime and I want to go before I resent doing a job I love and no longer cherish every moment in my electorate,” she wrote.
The 49-year-old, who holds Chisholm on a 5.8 percent margin, is renowned for speaking her mind and for standing up within Labor on issues such as better treatment of asylum seekers.
Burke’s term as Speaker during the hung parliament is also marked by punting the then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott from question time.
Burke has had a few things to say about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, despite choosing not to fight his government next year.
"I know what will soon be apparent to all -- Malcolm is sound and fury, full of nothing," she said.
"He is Abbott in a better suit and with a better turn of phrase, but he is doing nothing and he is letting the country down by not abandoning the policies of the Abbott era."
Labor Leader Bill Shorten has thanked and praised Burke, saying she has served with "absolute distinction" and describing her as a "fearless and tireless advocate for the rights of asylum seekers".
"Her unflinching dedication has earned her deep respect both inside and outside our party," he said.
"Fittingly, Anna's electorate was named for Caroline Chisholm, ‘The Immigrants' Friend', for her work with new immigrants to New South Wales in the 19th century," the Opposition Leader said.
"Chisholm argued for jobs, accommodation and proper support for migrants who were often treated as second class citizens."
Burke’s retirement is certain to open a fierce race within the notoriously factional Victorian Labor Party for pre-selection.
The six-time election winner has promised to support who ever stands as the Chisholm Labor Candidate at the next election.