- Marise Payne has announced her retirement from politics.
- Australia’s longest-serving female senator was in parliament for 26 years.
- She served as a minister under three prime ministers.
Former foreign minister Marise Payne, Australia’s longest-serving female senator, has announced her retirement from politics.
Payne has kept a low profile on the Coalition’s backbench since its thumping 2022 election loss, prompting speculation she was set to quit after 26 years in parliament.
In a statement on Friday, Payne confirmed she will bow out on 30 September, two weeks before Australians vote on an .
Payne described serving in parliament, including in cabinet under three prime ministers, as an “extraordinary honour”.
“To have had the privilege to have served as long as I have, and in the process to have become Australia’s longest-serving female senator in history, is something of which I am very proud,” she said.
Payne (centre) said her friendship with Peter Dutton had at times been tested, but paid tribute to her leader. Source: AAP / Jane Dempster
Payne, part of the Liberals’ moderate wing, also acknowledged Coalition leader Peter Dutton, who she described as a friend for two decades.
“Politics has occasionally tested our strong friendship, but our shared service as foreign and defence ministers at a time of great challenge for Australia cemented my regard and respect for him and I value his friendship,” she said.
Payne was foreign minister as Australia thrashed out the historic AUKUS agreement, and was a central figure as Australia’s relationship with China deteriorated during COVID-19. She was the first minister to openly call for an inquiry into the origins of the pandemic, sparking anger in Beijing.
Payne, 59, also held the minister for women portfolio at that time, a period in which parliament was rocked by multiple allegations relating to men’s mistreatment of women.
Her retirement will cause a casual vacancy in the Senate, with the Liberal Party to select a replacement from NSW.
That race could further reshape the party’s ideological outlook, with Payne’s departure potentially depleting its moderate faction, which was already decimated by a wave of teal independents at the last election.
Key anti-Voice campaigner Warren Mundine is considered a frontrunner to win the ballot, which could take place soon after the 14 October referendum
But Payne is believed to prefer fellow moderate and former NSW minister Andrew Constance, who fell just short of winning the lower-house seat of Gilmore at the last election.
Colleagues pay tribute to Payne
In a statement, Dutton lauded Payne’s “grand contribution to our nation”, which he said had shaped Australia for the better.
“For more than 20 years, Marise has not only been a wonderful colleague, she has also been a dear friend – someone who engages in the battle of ideas in the great Liberal Party tradition,” he said.
“I wish Marise a wonderful retirement. And I know that in the next phase of her career, she will continue to do brilliant and bold things for our nation in the best interests of the Australian people.”
Opposition upper house leader Simon Birmingham paid tribute to Payne.
“Personally, I could not have asked for a better friend or more trustworthy confidante throughout my senate career,” he said.
“Again and again, Marise has shown her respect for the institution of the Senate, the primacy of the parliament and the unique role of each parliamentarian.”
Payne entered the Senate in April 1997, going on to become the first woman appointed Australia’s defence minister in 2015, and the second woman to serve as foreign minister.
Liberal frontbencher Paul Fletcher said the opportunity to work with Payne was “very special”, with the pair friends since their university days.
“She is an inspiration to so many, and an outstanding role model for girls and women with an interest in public service,” he said.
– With additional reporting by AAP.