Australian defense minister the latest to quit as election looms

March 1, 2019

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said on Saturday he will not stand in elections due in May, becoming the latest high-profile resignation as opinion polls suggest Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s center-right government faces heavy defeat.

Morrison will need to retain all the parliamentary seats held by his coalition government, but his chances are weakened by a wave of incumbent lawmakers in marginal seats set to retire.

Pyne said he was bowing out after more than 25 years in Parliament and was confident he would leave his seat of Sturt, in the state of South Australia, in good shape.

“I’m sure the Liberal Party will retain Sturt at the coming election,” Pyne said in a statement on his website.

The move follows Friday night’s news that Australian Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo would also retire at the May election.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion announced his retirement last week after Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said he was stepping down. Minister for Jobs Kelly O’Dwyer also resigned, and former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said last month she would not stand for re-election.

The offices of the ministers and Morrison did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Newspoll for The Australian newspaper showed the opposition Labor party retained a lead of 53 percent to 47 percent over the Liberal-National government last month, unchanged from the poll in December.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey and Colin Packham with additional reporting by Alison Bevege; Editing by Tom Brown)

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