Dr Mike Kelly: tributes to a stellar career

April 30, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Labor MP Dr Mike Kelly has resigned from parliament and tributes have been received from colleagues within parliament and from the community.

Mike Kelly

From: Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals

Michael McCormack

“I pay tribute to the Hon Dr Mike Kelly a fine parliamentary colleague but more importantly, a friend.

Prior to entering Parliament, Mike had a distinguished military career, serving Australia with distinction overseas and rising to the rank of Colonel.

As local Members for neighbouring electorates, we have worked well together for many years. I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership and tireless advocacy for people in Southern New South Wales.

Whilst Mike represents Labor and I lead The Nationals, during the summer bushfires any political or philosophical differences meant nothing. We spoke on an hourly basis, ensuring we were providing the neighbouring towns and communities we represent with the best support possible through those devastating weeks and months.

I have many fond memories of hiking with Mike on our region’s famous Tumbatrek, an event instituted in 1985 by another fine Australian Army and political servant of our nation, the late Tim Fischer.

Mike has been battling health issues for some time and I wish him all the best as he deals with those ordeals going forward. Mike will come out the other side, stronger for it because that’s how tough and determined he is.

The Government’s main focus right now is getting Australia through this pandemic by saving lives and protecting livelihoods and ensuring we continue to help relief and recovery efforts from the drought and bushfires.

The Nationals are the party for regional Australia and we will be running in the seat of Eden-Monaro for the 12th time in our Party’s 100-year history. We will be putting ourselves forward at this by-election with a very strong local candidate and our plan to secure Eden-Monaro’s future.

Whilst no government has won a seat from the Opposition in a by-election in the past 100 years, the Coalition Scott Morrison and I lead have a strong plan to help the many local communities of Eden-Monaro continue to rebuild.”

Anthony Albanese, Leader of the Opposition:

Anthony Albanese

The Federal Parliament will be poorer for the retirement of Mike Kelly as the Member for Eden Monaro.

Mike Kelly is a great Australian.

He has served our nation in uniform and he has served his community in our national Parliament.

Mike’s retirement is a direct result of renal health issues sustained in connection with his service in Somalia, Iraq and Timor Leste.

He has been struggling with these health problems for some time and is retiring because of the heavy demands of servicing his large and diverse electorate.

Mike is putting his community ahead of himself.

Mike served the nation for 20 years in the Australian Army before retiring as a Colonel.

He won the seat of Eden Monaro for Labor from the Coalition not once, but twice.

In Government, Mike held five Parliamentary Secretary portfolios. He also served as Minister for Defence Materiel.

I will miss Mike as part of the Federal Labor team.

On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I wish Mike, his wife Rachelle and his family the best for the future.

Jodi McKay

Jodi McKay, Leader of the Opposition in the NSW parliament:

I thank the Hon Dr Mike Kelly for his many years of service to our nation, our state, to the people of Eden Monaro and to the Australian Labor Party on behalf of all of NSW Labor.

Mike is someone who has spent his whole life working for the Australian people both as a senior officer in the Australian Defence Force serving his country in war zones overseas and as a Government Minister advising on defence policy, standing up for veterans and helping deliver Australia a seat on the UN Security Council.

As the Labor Member for Eden Monaro, he tirelessly served his local community and fought to deliver better infrastructure, better services and a better environment for all his constituents. Mike stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Eden Monaro as the area was devastated by the terrible bushfires of 2019-2020 and continues to be a staunch advocate for his community as people struggle to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

We in the Labor Party can never thank him enough for the crucial role he played in helping Labor form Government in 2007 and 2010. Mike is a powerful advocate for the Labor cause because he is respected so much by the people of Eden Monaro.

While this chapter in Mike’s history of service to his community and country may have come to a close, I know that he will continue to be involved in public affairs, particularly as an advocate for strong action to address climate change.

Dr Mike Kelly has served the Australian people with great distinction. All of us owe him our thanks. The whole NSW Labor family wishes him well and knows he will continue to serve his community and be involved in public affairs long into the future.

Walt Secord, Shadow Treasurer NSW Parliament:

Walt Secord

NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair and the NSW Labor Israel Action Committee co-patron Walt Secord has described outgoing Federal Labor MP for Eden-Monaro and former Labor Minister Dr Mike Kelly as “one of the staunchest supporters of Israel and the Jewish community – within Federal NSW Labor” and he will be deeply missed.

Mr Secord, who is also the NSW Shadow Treasurer was responding to Dr Kelly’s announcement today (April 30 at 10am) that he was retiring from Federal Parliament on health grounds.

However, while Dr Kelly was instrumental several years ago along with other figures in the party including former Melbourne Ports Labor MP Michael Danby and former NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal in combating anti-Israel resolutions, Mr Secord stressed that there was still strong supporters within NSW Labor for a balanced position on the Middle East and a just and lasting two-State solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Secord has pledged to continue Dr Kelly’s commitment to a balanced position on Israel within NSW Labor circles.

“Dr Kelly could be relied upon at State Labor party conferences and within the ALP to fight for a balanced position. Dr Kelly always conducted himself with dignity and authority.”

“Dr Kelly also served Australian with honour as a decorated soldier. He was also a fantastic Federal minister and a great local MP for the electorate of Eden-Monaro in southern NSW.”

Mr Secord extended his best wishes to Dr Kelly’s wife, Rachelle, who was also facing health issues. Mr Secord said Mrs Kelly would converse in Russian with Mr Secord’s spouse, Julia whenever they encountered each other at Jewish and Israeli functions as both spouses are Jewish.

A former military attorney, Dr Colonel Mike Kelly joined the Australian military serving in Somalia, East Timor and Bosnia, and was among senior Australian military personnel who served in the Iraq War. In 1993, he was awarded the Chief of the General Staff Commendation. He retired from the Australian Army Legal Corps in 2007 after 20 years of service.

“I understand his decision and wish him the best in his future endeavours,” Mr Secord said.


Jeremy Leibler

Jeremy Leibler, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia:

Dr Kelly is a great friend of the Australian Jewish community and his presence in Parliament will be sorely missed. Mike’s service to Australia began long before he entered Parliament and, since being there, he has been an excellent local member and a strong voice in the Labor Party supporting the bipartisan consensus on Israel. His time in Parliament has sadly come to an end too soon, and I wish him and his family the very best into the future.

Lesli Berger, President The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies:

Lesli Berger

“The highest praise one can be given by the Jewish community is to be regarded as a mensch – a person of honour and integrity; Mike Kelly is a mensch and a great friend to our community. After a lifetime of service to his country from the sands of Somalia to fighting Daesch in Iraq to the hallways of Canberra, he has served with distinction. He has always been a strong voice against bigotry, fearlessly standing for pluralism and harmony. This has not always been to his advantage, and his office in Queanbeyan was daubed with anti-Jewish graffiti more than once.

“He worked hard to achieve a balanced policy on Israel within NSW Labor, and in large measure due to his efforts, the policy adopted by NSW Labor and nationally, while far from perfect, was testament to his support and our close friends in the Labor movement. For that we are eternally grateful. The absence of his experience and judgment on national security and counter-terrorism issues, together with his expertise in defence and foreign policy, will be a great loss to the Australian body politic.

“Mike Kelly will be missed by people across the Federal Parliament and country, not the least by his many friends and supporters in the Australian Jewish community.”

Jillian Segal, President, Peter Wertheim and Alex Ryvchin co-CEOs of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry:

President of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Jillian Segal

In the Jewish community, we have been especially appreciative of your long record of support for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. Among your parliamentary colleagues and especially within the ALP, you demonstrated an unmatched understanding of the political and military challenges Israel faces, and of Israel’s strategic importance as a bulwark of liberal democracy in a region that includes some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.

Peter Wertheim

Your many statements in support of Israel were heartfelt and based on deep knowledge and conviction. As far back as the 1980s, your doctoral thesis focused on Israel and the development of the Histadrut. More recently you have been a voice of reason and moderation among your party colleagues, rebuffing attempts to push the ALP into an unsustainable position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict based on historical falsehoods and misstatements of international law.

Mike, whilst we have no doubt that your talent will lead you into a new career with many accomplishments still ahead of you, your announced departure from the Federal political scene fills us all with great sadness. Your departure from parliament will be a devastating loss not only to your party but also to the entire country. Australia has never

Alex Ryvchin

been more in need of the kind of experience, wisdom and energy which you brought to Federal politics.

We thank you most sincerely for the wonderful service you have given to our country and, on a personal level, for being such a supportive friend and mentor to us at the ECAJ and our past President Robert Goot over many years.

We take this opportunity to wish you an early return to good health, and to wish you, Shelly and the whole family all the best for a happy, healthy and successful future.


Josh Burns, federal member for Macnamara:

Josh Burns

“Mike Kelly is a mensch.

Mike has dedicated his life to serving his community and his country – from his time serving in the Australian Army to his time as the Member for Eden-Monaro.

Mike’s retirement is a massive loss for Labor and for our Parliament.

Personally, Mike has been a true friend since long before I entered Parliament and I will miss his guidance and camaraderie.

We have been lucky to have Mike Kelly’s thoughtful and knowledgeable contributions on our national debates on defence, national security and many other issues.

And we were privileged to see his kindness and dedication on display while bushfires were raging in his community just months ago.

Mike is a dear friend to all in the Labor movement, a devoted supporter of the Australian Jewish community and an unflinching ally of the state of Israel.

I thank Mike for his service and wish him and his wife Rachelle nothing but the best health and happiness for the future.

AIJAC’s National Chairman Mark Leibler, NSW Chairman Paul Rubenstein, Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein and Director of International Affairs Jeremy Jones:

Mark Leibler

“Mike Kelly is a remarkable man who has served Australia in so many ways, always with distinction. His intelligence, integrity and passion made him an outstanding parliamentarian, following a distinguished career of service in the military. He was not only a very good friend of the Jewish community but a person whose support for Israel was founded in understanding and experience and in building strong mutually beneficial ties between  Israel and Australia. He has never been afraid to speak his mind or to volunteer for difficult tasks, while always retaining compassion and good humour. He will be a great loss to the parliament but we wish him good health and  look forward to working with him for many years to come.”

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