Cullen calls time on 27 years in the House

The curtain will fall on Michael Cullen's 27-year-long parliamentary career at the end of the month.

The former deputy prime minister and finance minister confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in politics yesterday, saying he was moving on to the board of New Zealand Post and other roles.

Dr Cullen himself noted that his career change was full of ironies.

His appointment to NZ Post, where he will become deputy chairman in October, was made by a National Government that he had bitterly opposed, saying it secretly planned to privatise state-owned enterprises.

Dr Cullen will also become principal adviser to Waikato-Tainui chairman Tuku Morgan.

Mr Morgan was a New Zealand First MP who was the subject of a sustained political campaign by Dr Cullen and his colleagues over his spending habits at Maori Television.

Dr Cullen will also work with Ngati Tuwharetoa and the Ahuriri claimant group in Napier on their Treaty claims.

The MP used to be responsible for treaty negotiations as a minister and was also the architect of the foreshore and seabed legislation.

Even if Labour had won last year's election Dr Cullen said he would have stood down from Parliament next February when he turns 65.

Labour's loss and his decision to return to the backbenches had left him with time on his hands and feeling unsatisfied. Prime Minister John Key had approached him before Christmas to discuss what role he would like outside Parliament.

A place on the board of the state- owned power company Mighty River Power had been his initial preference, but this had fallen by the wayside when the Government decided this could have created conflicts of interest over his desire to take up a treaty negotiations role.

Dr Cullen served 17 years as Labour's finance spokesman, 12 years as deputy leader and nine years as finance minister and deputy prime minister.

* Cullenisms

On John Key:
"A rich prick who could not be trusted."
He has now accepted a job from him.

On a seabed and foreshore settlement in 2008:
"This is the best birthday present I could possibly have."

English debate
During a debate with Bill English over Owen Glenn's possible appointment as New Zealand's honorary consul to Monaco in 2008:
"I am sorry I excite the member so much. I did not realise I had that effect upon him."

Yesterday
"My new young colleagues didn't seem to need me as long as I thought they might. They were superb at getting hold of what to do in Opposition."

"Having made really clear to everybody for a long time that for a whole lot of family reasons and others, I didn't seek an overseas post, I got NZ Post instead and [I'm] very very happy about that."

- NZPA

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