Former treasurer and Minister for the IllawarraEric Roozendaal has described his time as a NSW MP as “a roller coaster ride” while announcing his resignation from state parliament after nine years.
Mr Roozendaal has been an MP since 2004 and served as treasurer, roads minister and ports minister in the former Labor government. He was previously general secretary of the NSW Labor party.
Due to his time as a minister, Mr Roozendaal will leave parliament on an annual lifetime taxpayer-funded pension of about $120,000.
The Labor party has the right to replace Mr Roozendaal, whose term was not due to expire until 2019, in the NSW upper house.
Front runners are the deputy mayor of Burwood, Ernest Wong, and Daniel Mookhey, a former chief of staff at the Transport Workers Union who is now with the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
In a valedictory speech on Thursday morning, he reflected on his time as a minister, his stewardship of the controversial privatisation of electricity assets, his recent appearance before a corruption inquiry and the future of the party.
Mr Roozendaal told parliament it was “time to embark on a new journey to embrace a new, fresh direction and a new part of my life”.
But he did not give an indication of whether he has secured work outside of politics.
“It would be fair to say that my time in parliament has been a bit of a roller coaster ride,” Mr Roozendaal said.
“There’s been some great high points and there’s been a few low points. But anyone who embarks on public life can expect no different. That is what we sign up for.”
He said that since his student politics days he has always believed “that if you want to make a difference you need to step up and not be afraid to do so”.
Mr Roozendaal, a member of the Labor right faction, has been a controversial figure within the party.
As general secretary he was credited with accelerating the culture of donations to the party from the property development industry.
But he was also campaign director of then Premier Bob Carr’s election victory in 2003 which delivered the party one of its best ever results.
In 2004, Mr Roozendaal was chosen by the Labor party to take the upper house position of Tony Burke, who left to enter federal parliament and is now environment minister.
As roads minister, Mr Roozendaal’s ministerial car was caught driving illegally in a bus lane. As treasurer he presided over the last minute sale of a section of the state’s electricity assets, shortly before the 2011 state election.
Along with then premier Kristina Keneally, Mr Roozendaal was also involved in the decision to prorogue the NSW parliament to avoid a parliamentary inquiry into the sale process.
Last November, Mr Roozendaal appeared at the Independent Commission Against Corruption which held hearings into Mr Roozendaal’s purchase of a car when he was roads minister in 2007.
It heard evidence that the purchase price was $44,800, but Mr Roozendaal paid $10,800 less and the difference was paid by the family of former Labor powerbroker and minister Eddie Obeid.
The commission was told the arrangement was a “sham” to conceal the fact that Mr Roozendaal had obtained a financial benefit through Mr Obeid’s son Moses.
Mr Roozendaal and the Obeids denied this was the case.
Following the hearings, Mr Roozendaal was suspended from the Labor party at the request of the Opposition Leader John Robertson.
The suspension has meant Mr Roozendaal – who is a former general secretary of NSW Labor – has been banned from Labor caucus meetings, although the party has still expected him to vote with it in parliament.
In February, Mr Roozendaal put his North Bondi home on the market. In a statement he said he had separated from his wife, Amanda, after 15 years.
During his speech, Mr Roozendaal said the inquiry was “a bruising and tough process, especially for my family”.
He claimed the inquiry, which has yet to issue its findings into the matter, “did not produce any evidence that any favours were provided to anyone while I was a minister of the Crown”.
Reflecting on Labor’s difficulties over the issue of electricity privatisation, which led to former Premier Morris Iemma resigning, Mr Roozendaal took aim at a “strict 1960s dogmatic view in sections of the ALP that any form of privatisation is bad and the self interest playing out with the energy unions”.
Mr Robertson opposes any further sale of electricity assets, but Mr Roozendaal said: “It is in the best interests of the people of NSW to unlock the value in the energy assets to fund other economic infrastructure.”
Mr Roozendaal said he was “tired of the internal party navel gazing” within Labor.
“There is a saying: when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” he said. “In the ALP it seems when the going gets tough, the ALP blames itself.”
He urged the party to “again undertake the hard work of modernisation”.
In a statement, Mr Robertson wished Mr Roozendaal and his family “all the best”.
Eric Roozendaal Photo: Kate Geraghty
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