It’s 26 years since Christopher Pyne walked into Parliament House as its youngest MP, to a scandalised general gasp generated by the then-whippersnapper’s gory elimination of his Liberal predecessor in the seat of Sturt.
Over the intervening quarter of a century, Pyne has been in and out of government, in and out of the dogbox with this century’s merry-go-round of prime ministers. But he’s never been far from the action.
His resignation has been rumoured for months, and diplomatically demi-denied by the man himself repeatedly in a special form of words with built-in escape flap: “It is my intention to contest the seat of Sturt at the next election.”
But the denials have dried up, and Mr Pyne — given multiple opportunities — isn’t contesting widespread speculation that he will pull the pin.
The failure of Christopher Pyne to fill a televisual vacuum is a once-in-a-lifetime event on a par with the Menindee fish kill, which is what — along with other clues — leads your correspondent to accept that the Member for Sturt is indeed in the departure lounge.
Mr Pyne’s departure blows a prodigious hole in the ranks of the senior moderates of the Liberal Party, a group already mourning the loss of Julie Bishop.
Mischievous, literate, garrulous, politically merciless and possessed of a not-insignificant personal charm, Mr Pyne is a character whose departure will sap the Parliament of significant colour.
Kicking off with a faux pas
The heaviest blow to Pyne’s political career came at its very beginning. A brand-new backbencher, he was surprised in March 1993 by a visit from John Howard to his office in the House’s most distant orbit of junior offices. Mr Howard was there to canvass Mr Pyne’s vote in his bid against serving leader John Hewson.
“You’ve had your time. We’ll never go back to you,” was the youthful Mr Pyne’s confident and career-limiting response.
And so began the South Australian moderate’s lengthy sojourn on the frozen tundra of Mr Howard’s backbench.
A supporter of Peter Costello, Mr Pyne was never far from the intrigue that accompanied the then-Treasurer’s constant but never-realised availability for supreme office.
Along with Ms Bishop, Mr Pyne was routinely overlooked by Mr Howard for ministerial office and served as a parliamentary secretary for many years, leading him to observe on Kitchen Cabinet in 2012 that he must have been an extremely good parliamentary secretary, given his extreme longevity in the role.
As parliamentary secretary for health, Mr Pyne legalised the importation of Roquefort cheese, observing…