[SYDEY] Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb will quit politics at this year's election, adding to a growing list of Cabinet members that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must replace.
"I plan to move on to my next career which will be in some capacity in the private sector," said Mr Robb, 64, who clinched free-trade deals with China, South Korea and Japan. He said Mr Turnbull had asked him to stay on as trade minister for the time being.
Since Mr Turnbull ousted Tony Abbott in a September party ballot, several senior figures have left the Cabinet and he must now rebuild the ministry as he seeks to create a policy platform for this year's election. Nationals leader and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss is also expected to announce his retirement Thursday - adding to what opposition Labor Party lawmaker Tanya Plibersek says is an air of chaos in the government.
Mr Robb denied that the departures were causing instability. "We are in better shape in a stability sense than we've been in for a long, long time," Mr Robb told ABC Thursday. "We've still got a lot of exceptional talent coming through." The National Party will hold a ballot of its lawmakers at 8 pm on Thursday to decide on a leader to replace Mr Truss, the Australian reported. Turnbull will announce his reshaped ministry this weekend, the newspaper said, without citing sources.
Mr Turnbull was already facing the prospect of a Cabinet reshuffle after he lost two ministers from his administration last year, when Jamie Briggs, minister responsible for development of cities, quit and Special Minister of State Mal Brough temporarily stood aside.
Mr Robb has been "the most successful trade minister in our country's history," Mr Turnbull said in a statement. Agreements that Mr Robb helped to seal "have opened exciting new growth opportunities for Australian business in the world's most dynamic economies," he said.
Since the Liberal-National coalition won government in September 2013, Mr Robb has steered Australia through successful free-trade negotiations with China, Japan and South Korea, along with Australia's membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The former chief of the National Farmers' Federation and federal director of the Liberal Party has been a member of parliament since 2004.