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Face of Australia’s Covid fight to QUIT politics at next election after health minister stint during pandemic was the ‘BEST and WORST’ of his career

  • Long-serving NSW health minister Brad Hazzard will retire at 2023 state election
  • Says the Covid pandemic was the best and worst of times during his long career
  • Elected in 1991,  he’s currently longest serving member of the NSW lower house
  • He’s the fifth minister in Dominic Perrottet’s cabinet to announce they’re quitting

One of Australia’s most-seen faces during the Covid-19 pandemic will quit politics at the next state election.

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard announced on Monday night it was time for a new beginning after 32 years in politics including more than a decade on the cabinet front bench.

The long-time member for Wakehurst on Sydney‘s northern beaches is the second minister within 24 hours and the fifth in recent months to announce he won’t contest another four-year term.

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Mr Hazzard, 71, is best known for fronting press conferences on a daily basis to update NSW on the Covid crisis alongside then-Premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant.

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard (pictured with his wife, Nicole, in December 2021) won't contest the 2023 NSW election

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard (pictured with his wife, Nicole, in December 2021) won’t contest the 2023 NSW election

‘As NSW Health Minister it has been the best of times and the worst of times,’ Mr Hazzard said. 

‘The worst of times came with COVID-19. When the pandemic began, we were bracing for an expected 25,000 deaths in NSW in the first year.

‘There were many anguished nights. What followed was a gruelling and a deeply upsetting time where rapid decisions had to be made to try and keep 8.5 million people safe from the virus.’

The best times, he said, were working with ‘incredibly talented medical and non-medical staff in our health system’ and delivering almost 200 new hospitals and health facilities.

‘This period of political life has been very demanding,’ he said. 

‘As my staff pointed out, Victoria has had four health ministers during this time, and Queensland and Tasmania three.’

The decriminalisation of abortion in 2019 was another proud highlight.

‘Working with colleagues across the political divide to right the antiquated wrong of potential criminalisation of women and doctors who found themselves making the difficult decision to undertake an abortion, was another important moment for me,’ Mr Hazzard said.

He thanked his wife Nicole and his family for their support, ‘especially over these past three Covid-challenged years’ and paid tribute to his electoral and ministerial staff.

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The former teacher and lawyer has held the seat of Wakehurst since 1991 and is currently the longest serving member of the NSW lower house.

During Sydney's four month lockdown, Brad Hazzard (left) was one of the state's faces of the pandemic alongside then Premier Gladys Berejiklian

During Sydney’s four month lockdown, Brad Hazzard (left) was one of the state’s faces of the pandemic alongside then Premier Gladys Berejiklian

He has been in cabinet since the Coalition’s landslide victory at the 2011 election, including as attorney-general and minister for planning, justice, social housing, community services and finally health.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet described Mr Hazzard as a ‘tireless and committed advocate for people right across our state’.

‘Our state is a better place thanks to Brad’s significant contribution,’ he said.

‘There is no doubt our state benefited from Brad’s invaluable experience, commitment and advice throughout the pandemic and beyond.

‘Brad’s legacy is a health system that is the envy of every other state in Australia, with investment and support at record levels.’

Brad Hazzard (pictured in 2000) says it's time for new beginnings after 32 years in politics

Brad Hazzard (pictured in 2000) says it’s time for new beginnings after 32 years in politics

Mr Hazzard is the fifth current minister within months to announce he’s retiring, joining David Elliott, Rob Stokes, Victor Dominello and Geoff Lee in the mass exodus along with a host of current Liberal MPs.

Former NSW Health secretary Elizabeth Koff also paid tribute to Mr Hazzard’s ‘extraordinary contribution’ but admits she had doubts when he first took over the health portfolio.

‘It would be fair to say his reputation preceded him as a challenging and demanding Minister,’ she told The Daily Telegraph.

‘I don’t think he got the name Battleship Hazzard for no reason, because he is a formidable character.’

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