SYDNEY – Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced Wednesday his retirement from politics.
In an emotional speech to Parliament, Rudd said, “This has been the product of much soul searching . . . and the decision that I have been has not been taken lightly,” Rudd said.
“But for me, my family is everything . . . which is why I will not be continuing as a member of this Parliament beyond this week,” he said, while fighting back tears.
Rudd, who has served in Parliament since 1998, led Australia as prime minister between 2007 and 2010, and then again earlier this year until his Australian Labor Party lost the Sept. 7 general election to the Liberal-National coalition of current Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Rudd said he plans to establish a “national apology foundation” in the year ahead “to keep alive the spirit and substance” of a landmark apology he made as prime minister to Aboriginal Australians in 2008 for centuries of injustice.
He said he will also continue supporting the causes of homelessness, organ donation and “the future of multicultural Australia,” while remaining active in the international community.
“I am both Australian and passionately Australian and passionately a citizen of the world. I intend to be active in the international community in areas where I can make a genuine contribution to peace and stability, global economic governance and sustainable development, including climate change,” he said.
The former diplomat to China said he would also focus “on China’s future role in the region and the world.”
Abbott paid tribute to Rudd, calling his longtime political opponent “someone who has been one of the big figures in this Parliament and one of the big figures in the life, the public life of our country over the best part of two decades.”
“I salute him and I wish him and his family all the best for the future, and I express my confidence that one way or another he will continue to serve our country,” he said.