One politician is planning ahead with foresight – Sweeny Legal

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Robert McClelland moonlighting as lawyer while still an MP

  • Brad Norington
  • July 01, 2013 12:00AM

FORMER Labor attorney-general Robert McClelland will start work as a partner with a big employment law firm in Sydney today while continuing to draw his salary as a serving MP until the coming federal election.

Mr McClelland told colleagues and potential clients via an online LinkedIn message yesterday that he would be returning to Turner Freeman Lawyers at its Martin Place office from today.

The former attorney-general, a fervent supporter of Kevin Rudd in his quest to wrestle back the prime ministership from Julia Gillard, is another of federal Labor’s prominent senior faces to bow out of politics at the federal election, which is set for September 14 but the date is expected to change.

By becoming a partner with Turner Freeman now instead of waiting until after the election, Mr McClelland will earn part of a top lawyer’s salary for 2 1/2 months while representing the constituents of Barton in Sydney’s south.

Mr McClelland, 55, was a solicitor and later a partner with Turner Freeman before entering federal parliament at the 1996 election.

His decision to return to Turner Freeman while still an MP is unusual and attracted some criticism from Labor colleagues yesterday.

While Mr McClelland’s move technically breaks no rules preventing MPs from taking up work outside parliament, some questioned why he would not wait.

For the past year, Mr McClelland has been practising part-time as a barrister but has not had a considerable case load.

By working for a firm, and not alone as a barrister, he risks some short-term conflicts of interest with Turner Freeman’s client list.

Mr McClelland told The Australian last night that he anticipated giving constituents in Barton the “same level of service” that he had over the past 12 months while also working on some cases part-time as a barrister.

He would not work full-time at Turner Freeman until parliament was officially prorogued in August, he said, although this could change if Mr Rudd changed the election date.

Mr McClelland said he received a call from a former colleague at Turner Freeman offering a job with the firm after his bid to join the NSW Industrial Relations Commission failed.

“He’s been very good to me. I will be able to get time off in the election campaign to help Steve McMahon, the new candidate in Barton.” Mr Rudd’s restoration to the top job last week could have provided an opportunity for Mr McClelland to have a change of heart and rejoin the Labor ministry, despite the selection of a party replacement in Barton.

In his LinkedIn message yesterday, Mr McClelland said: “Just letting know (sic) that from Monday July 1 I will be returning as a partner to Turner Freeman Lawyers. My contact details are below. Regards, Robert McClelland, Turner Freeman Lawyers.”

Mr McClelland told The Australian he had not reconsidered leaving politics. “Once I decided to move on, it was the right call,” he said. He said he had earned a “relatively small amount” at the Bar and expected similar earnings until he went full-time at Turner Freeman. From The Australian 1 July 2013.

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