24 Aug 2023

Todd Muller leaves Parliament - 'I've done my best'

6:13 am on 24 August 2023
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Todd Muller. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Former National leader Todd Muller admits the prospect of becoming a minister after the election tempted him to stay in politics.

But the Bay of Plenty MP ultimately decided to leave Parliament and last night delivered his valedictory statement, drawing his nine-year political career to a close.

Despite recent polls suggesting National and ACT could comfortably form a government in October, Muller does not doubt his decision to leave.

Highlighting the intense workload and demanding hours required of ministers, Muller said: "That kind of lifestyle is not something I want to put my hand up for.

"If you're not going to put your hand up to sit around a Cabinet table, in my view, you step out and let someone else do it," he said.

Muller, however, admitted the prospect of becoming minister of his portfolios, agriculture and climate change, had tempted him to stay.

"It certainly was tempting, because Christopher [Luxon] had asked me to do those portfolios. I had a real sense that if we had won ... or do win in October, and I was still around that I would be given those portfolios. I mean, you never can be sure, but that was sort of my deep sense of it.

"When a leader trusts you to bring the best of you to a role like that, I think part of that is bringing your own self-awareness as to whether you can do the role to the requisite level for the extended period that you need to, it's not just doing it well, for three months, it's doing it well for three years. And like I say, I've decided to step back and let others have a go."

Muller is not leaving Parliament with regrets, saying "I ... feel at peace that ... I've done my best."

But he did struggle with regrets when he stepped down as leader of the National Party in 2020.

Muller resigned after 53 days in the job due to a mental health breakdown.

"In fact, when I came back from that experience, after the 2020 election, there was an extended period, where I found it intensely difficult, because you're surrounded by all sorts of triggers and experiences that reminded me of the time ... back then, I just couldn't help but replaying it all.

"If you spend too much time reflecting on those tough times you drag yourself down. So I just had to work through it and got myself actually to a really good position, which of course made the decision to step down, when I had climate and agriculture, all that more difficult, but didn't change the fact that it's the right decision."

Since returning to Parliament after the 2020 election, Muller has been frank about his struggles with mental health.

He never expected to become a prominent voice for mental health.

"It is a little, at times, surreal to leave here, and have my phone buzzing with people thanking me for my contribution in mental health above all else. And, you know, that's interesting, isn't it? You come into politics to help and assist ... sometimes it unfolds in a way that you didn't expect."

Muller is coy about his next steps but signalled he would continue to focus on agriculture, seafood and mental health.

"I'm quietly confident a couple of things will come up to keep me busy."