PROMINENT Canberra Labor Minister, Meegan Fitzharris has called it a day this morning (June 26), saying her decision to suddenly resign is personal.
“My decision is a personal one and stems from a desire to better balance my family life,” Ms Fitzharris says.
“This has been an incredibly difficult decision for me, but it is the right decision and will allow a new member of our team to come into the Assembly prior to the 2020 election.”
Ms Fitzharris joined the Australian Labor Party 17 years ago and currently holds five prominent portfolios such as the portfolio for health and wellbeing, higher education and transport. She will stand down as Minister on July 1, and will leave the Legislative Assembly in the coming weeks.
It has not yet been confirmed who will take her spot, but former Yerrabi Labor candidate from the 2016 election, Deepak-Raj Gupta is making himself eligible for the count back.
As a key player in the party, Ms Fitzharris’ pending departure raises the question of what will become of the ACT government post Fitzharris?
Former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and “CityNews” columnist Michael Moore says Chief Minister Andrew Barr is going to have a serious problem replacing Ms Fitzharris.
“She has been the one Minister who has been prepared to stay in control of her portfolios and simply not leave it to the bureaucrats,” Mr Moore says.
“She has laid the sensible ground work for challenging portfolios such as health and transport and it will be interesting to see if her successes are able to now follow through.”
Mr Moore says her resignation will also present a significant challenge for Mr Barr at the next election.
“The loss of the level of her intellectual capacity and talent is a serious blow to the Canberra Labor party and will make the challenge in the next election that much more difficult,” he says.
But Ms Fitzharris’ resignation doesn’t seem to be a total loss to the community, and she says she hopes to continue to make a contribution to Canberra after her political career.
“I will continue to be a working mum, something my husband and I have balanced since each of our children were born. Now is the time for a new balance and new opportunities,” she says.
When looking back on her political career, Ms Fitzharris says representing the Canberra community, particularly the people living in Gungahlin, has been a privilege and a huge responsibility.
“I have been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to represent the electorates of Molonglo, and now Yerrabi, since 2015, and working to bring about positive change for our community and bring investment into the Gungahlin region,” she says.
“It has been a huge privilege to be a minister in the Barr Government, particularly in the health, transport and higher education portfolios, and I am proud of some of the progress and big achievements we have made in these policy areas, although at times it has not been easy.”
But overall Ms Fitzharris says she’s loved being an MLA and is grateful to the people of Yerrabi for electing her in 2016, and is disappointed she won’t be able to fulfil her responsibility as an MLA for the remainder of the term.
“I would like to thank the Chief Minister Andrew Barr for his leadership and unrelenting support for me, and my caucus colleagues and friends who are wonderful people, deeply committed to making Canberra a better place,” she says.
“I would like to thank members of the community for sharing their views, ideas and encouragement and the many stakeholders and representative groups I have worked with, for their advocacy and helping me learn more about the portfolios I have held.
“Lastly, to my family here and in New Zealand – my biggest thank you for everything and much more.”
Opposition Leader Alistair Coe, on behalf of the Canberra Liberals, says they want to thank Ms Fitzharris and her family for all that they have contributed to the territory.
“During her time in the Assembly, in addition to being a local member, she has presided over construction of the light rail project and many changes in the health system,” Mr Coe says.
“Her workload, particularly in the health portfolio, was extremely challenging yet she was always professional and committed to her duties.
“Life in public office demands long hours and personal sacrifices. I wish her and her family all the best for the next stage in their journey.”