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INDEPENDENT member for New England Tony Windsor has announced he will not contest the September 14 federal election, citing health issues and family as the reason for stepping down.
In a shock announcement in Canberra this morning, Mr Windsor was supported by his wife Lyn and daughter as he signaled the end to a political career of 22-years.
“I do have a health issue that’s currently being investigated,” Mr Windsor said.
“My family also want me not to stand, I have two children, one who is getting married in October and our eldest son is getting married in December.
“My youngest son has never known me as anything other than a politician.
VIDEO: Independent MP Tony Windsor announces his retirement from politics.
“I know that people say that you’re quitting, the problem is and the opinion polls show that I’d probably win.
“But I don’t really want to be here in three years time."
Mr Windsor said he would like to return to his love of agriculture and sustainability of food production.
Mr Windsor also thought he had a good chance of retaining the seat of New England.
National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce leaves the Senate at the end of the week to try his luck as a lower house candidate for the seat.
Mr Windsor said he was most proud of the work in tackling climate change with a carbon price and congratulated the Prime Minister and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet.
''That is a very significant issue and I see the President of the United States this morning moving into that space as well. I think any sensible government, irrespective of who it is, next time will have to really start to address that rather than the short-term politics of it,'' he said.
What the punters had to say:
By Ann Newling
Tony Windsor's sudden decision to retire has shocked his electorate.
No one except a handful of loyal campaign supporters knew about it or saw it coming.
On the street the reaction was overwhelmingly of shock, disappointment and sadness.
A straw poll in Tamworth showed a majority of people stunned over the surprise announcement from the Independent MP for New England that he would not contest the next federal election.
On the street the emotions looked to be about 75-25% pro-Windsor when it came to responses to the MP's decision to retire.
Emotions ranged from deep disappointment to elation.
Wayne Morris: He was a good member, he did well for the New England. He always spoke the truth.
Lewis Morgan: It was expected, he did the wrong thing by the electorate..
Eric McCarthy: Has he seen the light? He should have resigned years ago. He knew he'd get kicked out.
Lorraine Matheson: What a shock. I like the man.
Sasha Crothers: I'm speechless. I didn't expect that to happen.
Among others there were responses that suggested his health concerns were a smoke screen for getting out without getting beaten to disappointment that a man they believed a decent human being was going after having done a lot for his electorate.
Mr Windsor's electorate staff was so upset they closed up the office over the duration of his retirement press conference in Canberra and were too emotional to be interviewed or photographed. It is known that whoever has worked for the long serving politician, who entered state politics in 1991, has had an intense loyalty and respect for his integrity.
Mr Windsor has held the seat since 2001 and in 2010 secured almost 62 per cent of the primary vote. But he threw his hat in with Julia Gillard's Labor team in the hung parliament and that prompted a flurry of vocal opposition, antagonism and even vitriol from voters and residents who, in an electorate once a blue ribbon Nationals seat, are overwhelmingly conservative.
While some of the public criticism has let up over the past three years, various issues have generated periodic reprisals, especially since Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce was coopted to stand for the National Party this time around.
Joyce in fact was the second string or reserve player, but the demise and the fall from grace of the former Independent state MP and then Nationals recruit Richard Torbay in March, put Joyce on the playing field.