New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announces his resignation at a press conference on Monday. Vision courtesy ABC News 24
Mr Key, 55, made the shock announcement at a press conference on Monday.
“A good leader knows when it’s time to go, and it’s time to go.”
His voice wavered as he said he had “given everything I could to this job” at great cost to his family.
Mr Key said he had never seen himself as a career politician, and “did not believe I could look the public in the eye” and say he planned to serve out a fourth term.
“I gave everything I had, I had nothing left in the tank.”
He had recently marked his eighth anniversary as Prime Minister and 10th year as leader of the National Party, a chance “not only to take stock of the past 10 years but also to look forward”.
He said his time in charge of the country had been “an incredible experience”, mentioning his government’s work in steering New Zealand through the global financial crisis, the Christchurch earthquakes and the Pike River mine disaster.
“Throughout these years, I have given everything I could to this job.
“I’ve never wanted my success to be measured by how long I’ve spent in Parliament.”
Mr Key outlined the highlights of his term, including the overhaul of justice agencies, trade liberalisation and advanced race relations.
Mr Key said he felt that New Zealand had become a lot more confident and outward-looking during his time as Prime Minister.
He said a new flag would have been the ultimate expression of that, and he wished he had pushed a bit harder for it.
He said he was “not so convinced” that the playing field had now been levelled for the opposition Labour Party.
“I think [Leader of the Opposition] Andrew Little believes in being more left wing, I don’t knock him for that, I respect him,” he said, but added that New Zealand would still vote for the kind of leadership it wanted.
He did not believe that was the type of government Labour was offering.
Mr Key said his time as Prime Minister “had come at quite some sacrifice from the people who are dearest to me, my family”.
His wife Bronagh had given up plenty of her time, while his children Steffie and Max had to “cope with an extraordinary level of intrusion”.
However, Mr Key said the family had had “remarkable opportunities and experiences”, while he had thoroughly enjoyed the job.
“Simply put for me, it has been the most remarkable and satisfying time of my life.”
Mr Key said his wife was incredibly supportive of his decision to resign, and would have been “totally supportive” if he decided to run for a fourth term.
“Look, if I really want to stay for a full fourth term, she would back me, but I just feel it has been a decade of a lot of nights home alone for her,” he said.
“It is the right time for me to come home.”
He flatly rejected suggestions by journalists after the press conference that Bronagh had given him an ultimatum.
While it was up to the party to decide, Mr Key said believed Deputy Prime Minister Bill English would “be a fine Prime Minister”.
But Mr Key’s support may indicate either a change of heart, or wishful thinking from the Prime Minister.
In a statement, Mr English said: “John Key’s intelligence, optimism and integrity as leader of the National Party and Prime Minister of New Zealand means he will be judged by history as one of New Zealand’s greatest leaders.
“On behalf of the National Party, the government and New Zealand I thank John for his years of dedicated and outstanding service to our country.
“Through good times and bad, his strong leadership has been steadfast and this is a more confident, successful and self-assured country because of his contribution. He has truly made a difference.
“Under John Key’s leadership the government has worked alongside New Zealanders to ensure our country is one of the most desirable places to live, work and raise a family in the world.
“It is a tribute to the Prime Minister’s outstanding leadership that he will leave behind a united team with plenty of talent to take New Zealand forward and build on his legacy.”
Mr Key said he would resign from Parliament some time before the 2017 election, and looked forward to a life that would be much quieter.
He said he had no immediate plans, but told reporters he would stay in Parliament long enough to avoid a byelection for his seat.
“It’s our home.”
But his life after politics would be in the commercial sector.
He had no interest in international politics, he said.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Key’s departure would be a great loss to New Zealand and the world.
“I heard he was about to make that announcement and I sent him one very short message: ‘Say it ain’t so, bro’,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Key had been a great role model as a reforming leader.
“What he has been able to do is demonstrate that if you make the case for reform clearly, cogently, persuasively, you can win and retain strong public support for economic reform,” he said.
New Zealand had never boxed above its weight as much as it had done under Mr Key, and he was leaving the economy in a very strong state.
“The budget is in surplus, economic growth is strong. That is due to the outstanding leadership John has shown,” Mr Turnbull said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott said it had been a “fine innings”.
“Not many pollies retire unbeaten on a double ton,” he tweeted.
Former treasurer Joe Hockey said he had enjoyed working with Mr Key.
“Your country is stronger and richer,” he said.
And Mr Key even attracted praise from the other side of the ideological divide, with Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten calling him a “civilised conservative”.
“John Key is from a different political party but I think he’s done a good job being Prime Minister of New Zealand,” Mr Shorten said.
“He certainly was a great friend of Australia.”
The Labor Party’s New Zealand counterparts have been stuck in opposition since 2008 thanks to the robust popularity of Mr Key’s National Party government. Source.