DAMIEN BROWN, Sunday Tasmanian

THE State Government was scrambling last night to limit the fallout from the resignation of besieged Labor MLC Allison Ritchie.

Ms Ritchie, the Member for Pembroke in the Legislative Council, indicated late yesterday afternoon she would quit Parliament in the wake of allegations about family nepotism in her electorate office.

Labor has now lost five ministers since July 2006 and three have cut links with Parliament altogether.

Ms Ritchie said the decision had been made “in the best interests of her ongoing health and out of love and respect for her family”.

But a Labor insider said she was told to quit after she accused her own party colleagues of starting and spreading a vicious whispering campaign over the past six months about irregularities in the staffing and funding of her electoral office.

“Look at why this is happening now — we are going into a state election and some people within Labor don’t want me to return to the (Bartlett) ministry because they want that job themselves,” Ms Ritchie told the Mercury yesterday.

She had been at the centre of a political furore about the alleged nepotism after it was revealed she had employed her mother, two sisters and her brother-in-law on her own staff.

In a press release from the Government’s media office late yesterday, she insisted nothing improper had occurred.

“It is regrettable that an MP who has done nothing but work hard for their electorate can be so publicly targeted in spite of their efforts for their constituents,” she said.

“During my recent illness, where I was subjected to continual invasions of privacy and unrelenting media scrutiny at a time when I was trying to focus on my recovery to return to work, I reached a point where I was considering resigning.

“Having made every effort to return to full health, this latest commentary from some quarters has reached a point where I am no longer prepared to see my family and myself attacked in such a way.

“I accept that, as a politician, media scrutiny is part and parcel of the role, and I have always welcomed this. But when such scrutiny reaches a point where hard-working staff have their credibility and reputations questioned in such a manner, it is time to make a decision in the best interests of both those individuals and myself.”

A by-election will now be held to fill the vacancy.

There had been speculation over the past six months that former Labor minister Julian Amos might stand in Pembroke, on Hobart’s Eastern Shore, should a vacancy occur.

Dr Amos last night labelled the speculation as “idle rumour” but did not rule out the prospect of standing.

Asked if he was interested in standing, he said: “Look, don’t even ask that question today. This is way out of left field for me.”

Ms Ritchie’s shock resignation came just one week after her promotion to a junior government position on June 11. She had previously stepped down as a minister in November after only two months in that role. Read more here

The Government appears unable to escape a culture of secrecy and spin and Labor loyalists must be disheartened to see this flaw dragging it down again. It seems the notion of transparency has not taken hold at all, despite repeated promises of change.

The Sunday Tasmanian Editorial and Kudelka cartoon: HERE

What Allison Ritchie said:

“It is regrettable that an MP who has done nothing but work hard for their electorate can be so publicly targeted in spite of their efforts for their constituents.

During my recent illness, where I was subjected to continual invasions of privacy and unrelenting media scrutiny at a time when I was trying to focus on my recovery to return to work, I reached a point where I was considering resigning from Parliament.

Having made every effort to return to full health, this latest commentary from some quarters has reached a point where I am no longer prepared to see my family and I attacked in such a way.

I accept that as a politician, media scrutiny is part and parcel of the role, and I have always welcomed this, but when such scrutiny reaches a point where hardworking staff have their credibility and reputations questioned in such a manner, it is time to make a decision in the best interests of both those individuals and myself.

I have spoken to both the Premier and the Treasurer this morning to inform them of my decision.

I have dearly loved representing the people of Pembroke in the Legislative Council for the past eight years, and I thank all electors for their continued support.

I also sincerely thank the Premier, my Parliamentary colleagues and the many people who have been part of my political career for all the love and support that they have shown me.

I will continue my involvement with the ALP and will keep working to ensure the election of the Bartlett Labor Government next year.

I hope that the media will respect my right to privacy now that I am no longer an elected representative.”