The Labor Party's Mark Latham yesterday bowed to public pressure and resigned as both leader of the opposition and as a member of the Australian federal parliament.
Latham, 43, was elected Labor leader in December 2003 and took his party to its worst electoral defeat in October when 65-year-old Prime Minister John Howard and his conservative Liberal-National coalition romped to its fourth successive win at the ballot box.
Poor health played a part in the decision. Latham, convalescing after his second bout of pancreatitis in six months, was under intense and public pressure to give way to a healthy alternative.
Latham had also been assailed for trying to hide his medical condition from colleagues over the New Year period.
He was also lambasted for failing to issue a statement expressing the condolences of his party to those bereaved in the Asian tsunami disaster on Boxing Day.
For the past week Latham had been in hiding, keeping his whereabouts from the public and even from shadow Cabinet colleagues.
"Public office can take it out of people and, after 17 years and two serious life-threatening illnesses, the time has come to put my family and my health first," an angry and embittered Latham said in a brief statement outside his Sydney home.
"In politics, everyone talks about family values; I would like to practice them in a normal way."
Latham, who battled testicular cancer earlier in life, said he had been disappointed by the press coverage of his latest bout of ill health.