Queensland MP Stuart Robert will be leaving parliament after 16 years within weeks, following a career he admits “has not been a smooth ride”.
The Member for Fadden, based on the Gold Coast, announced his retirement from politics on Saturday, with the intention of leaving parliament “in the coming weeks”.
“Serving my community and the country has been the highest of honours. But it is now time to focus on my family,” Mr Roberts said.
“My family have stood with me throughout this time, through thick and thin. It is now time for my family to have a husband, a father and a son to stand by them.”
Mr Robert was at the helm of some significant portfolios while the Liberal Government was in power, including being Minister the Veteran Affairs, National Disability Insurance Scheme and for Government Services.
Fadden MP Stuart Robert is giving up politics to spend more time with his family. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
But his time in politics hasn’t been without controversy, as demonstrated by his recent appearance at the Royal Commission into the botched Centrelink compliance scheme known as RoboDebt.
Mr Robert told the commission in March he took “absolute responsibility” for the illegal scheme.
He conceded he had made false statements about RoboDebt in the past, including that the debt calculated in more than 99 per cent of cases was correct.
The Liberal MP said he made the claims about the program having such a small margin of error because he was “a cabinet minister” and “that’s what we do”, even though he had “a massive personal misgiving” about the use of income averaging to calculate alleged welfare debts.
Mr Robert had been forced to resign from Cabinet in February 2016 over a “private” trip to China, where he met a major Liberal donor and members of the Chinese government.
A year later, he was investigated by the Crime and Corruption Commission after it was revealed three candidates at 2016 Gold Coast City Council elections had been bankrolled with $70,000 of funding from the Fadden Forum, which was attached to the LNP branch’s fundraising wing.
Mr Robert told the hearings in 2017 that he did not control the branch’s funds.
Stuart Robert was held many ministerial portfolios during his 16 years in politics, including during his time serving under former Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
He was in hot water again when it was discovered taxpayers were paying close to $40,000 for his annual home internet bill.
Mr Robert paid back the money after he had admitted he had been forced to use 4G because of poor internet connection at his home.
In a statement announcing his retirement, the Liberal MP admitted his “time in parliament has not been the smoothest ride”.
“Politics is tough. People throw the kitchen sink at you,” he said.
Mr Robert was wary about speculating on possible changes to the operation of parliament following a string of reviews ordered by the Labor government.
“Promises of a kinder, gentler parliament need to be taken with a grain of salt,” he said.
“We may all aspire to it, but ambition in politics will always win — as Labor stalwart Graham Richardson aptly put it: whatever it takes.
“I do hope civility does eventually come to the theatre of politics. But I do fear division has well and truly entrenched itself in the current parliament.
“A kinder, gentler parliament it is not.”
Fadden MP Stuart Robert will be resigning from parliament in the coming weeks. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Mr Robert said the difficult years of the Covid pandemic had tested the country in ways it had never experienced.
He threw his “full support” behind the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who he believes is the best man to bring the Liberals back into power.
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Mr Robert said he plans to remain on the Gold Coast as he enters this next chapter.
“For now, I will fulfil some final duties as Member for Fadden over the next few weeks before becoming a full-time husband, father and son,” he said.
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