Iemma in frame as McClelland decides to bring down curtain

THE former federal attorney-general and prominent Kevin Rudd supporter Robert McClelland is to retire from federal politics.

Mr McClelland announced the federal election would bring an end to his 17-year hold on the Sydney electorate of Barton, triggering speculation the former NSW premier Morris Iemma could replace him in the seat.

Other names being discussed in relation to Barton are Shane O'Brien, who is the mayor of Rockdale and assistant general secretary of the Public Service Association of NSW, and the former Labor aide Kirsten Andrews, who is now with the National Heart Foundation.

If Mr Iemma decided to put his hand up, it is understood he would enjoy the backing of the NSW Labor head office. He also has strong support in his local branches, where he has remained active since leaving office.

A Labor source, who has spoken to Mr Iemma about the issue in recent months, said he was ''definitely interested, but not committed'' to running.

A major consideration is his family. Mr Iemma and his wife, Santina, have four children. Their eldest son starts high school this year and they have twins in primary school.

Despite the 8.1 per cent swing against Labor in the 2010 election, Mr McClelland held Barton with a margin of 6.9 per cent.

He served as attorney-general under Mr Rudd's government from 2007 and continued in the role under the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. But Ms Gillard moved Mr McClelland into emergency management in 2011 and then dumped him from the cabinet in March last year soon after he strongly backed Mr Rudd's leadership challenge.

''After almost 17 years in federal Parliament, my decision has not been taken lightly and follows discussions over the Christmas recess with my family and friends,'' Mr McClelland said.

The son of the Whitlam minister and NSW senator Doug McClelland, he said it had been a ''tremendous honour and privilege'' to represent his constituents and he was grateful for their support.

The former Rudd government press secretary Lachlan Harris, who worked for Mr McClelland in opposition, said although retirement often triggered positive tributes, the sentiments in this case would be genuine.

''This was one of the true nice guys in politics,'' he said.

''He was one of the ones that had friends on both sides of the aisle. He had an old-school sense of what's right and what's wrong,'' Mr Harris said.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said Mr McClelland was ''a very decent guy treated poorly by Julia Gillard'', and the Victorian Labor MP Steve Gibbons said the former lawyer ''served the party and his community with great distinction''.

On Twitter, Joel Fitzgibbon, a Rudd supporter and Hunter region MP, described Mr McClelland as ''a great servant of the Labor Movement'' whom history would treat well.

As a backbencher last June, Mr McClelland referred in Parliament to Ms Gillard's involvement in providing advice on the establishment of a contentious Australian Workers Union fund.

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