The Howard government’s Health Minister, Dr. Michael Wooldridge, 44, has announced that he will leave Parliament at this year’s election.
His retirement brings to 5 the number of ministers who have departed over the past year.
Citing the loneliness of political life and time away from home, and claiming he wished to spend more time with his family, Wooldridge said he wished to become a father to his young children.
In recent times, Wooldridge has been under attack over his handling of issues arising out of allegations that a Cabinet decision to allow medical rebates for MRI scanning was leaked to doctors prior to the public announcement in the Budget.
Wooldridge was embroiled in a bitter confrontation with the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr. Kerryn Phelps, earlier this year. Pressure from the Prime Minister led to a public show of civility with the influential pressure group.
As Health Minister, Wooldridge points to his work in areas such as immunisation of children and diabetes awareness. He also introduced the 30% rebate for people taking out private health insurance.
Wooldridge represents the Melbourne electorate of Casey, winning in 1998 with a margin of 4.87%.
The ALP candidate for Casey is David McKenzie, the former member for Diamond Valley between 1972-75.
Wooldridge was first elected to the Victorian seat of Chisholm in 1987.
He became Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs after the 1990 election, before being elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party after the 1993 election. He lost the position when his leader, Dr. John Hewson, was deposed in 1994.
He then took over the shadow portfolios of Community Services and then Health, before becoming Health Minister in 1996, the portfolio he has held ever since.