Former minister Philip Ruddock will retire at the next federal election after 43 years in parliament to take on a new human rights role.
Mr Ruddock, 72, is the current longest-serving member of the House of Representatives and the second-longest serving federal MP in history, after 51-year veteran Billy Hughes.
The MP for the Sydney seat of Berowra has been appointed Australia’s first special envoy for human rights.
“The role will, of necessity, require periods of travel abroad from now until the time of the next federal election,” Mr Ruddock said in a statement.
“In order for me to devote myself to this task fully I cannot be active in a national political campaign and give effective time to my own re-election.”
Mr Ruddock has chaired the parliament’s joint committee on human rights, campaigned against the death penalty and chaired the human rights sub-committee of the foreign affairs committee.
He has also been involved in parliament’s Amnesty group since it began 40 years ago.
“I believe the role of special envoy for human rights complements my long-term engagement in these areas,” he said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Mr Ruddock would promote Australia’s candidacy for membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term.
He will also represent Australia at international human rights events.
“Mr Ruddock will be Australia’s first special envoy for human rights, reflecting the government’s commitment to further strengthening Australia’s contribution to advancing human rights,” Ms Bishop said in a statement.
Mr Ruddock was immigration minister from 1996 to 2003, holding the portfolio during the infamous children overboard scandal and the establishment of the so-called Pacific Solution.
“If you are putting in place the right policies for Australia and building our future through an immigration system which I believe is the best in the world it has to have integrity,” Mr Ruddock told Sky News.
As attorney-general he was criticised over the handling of terrorism charges against Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef.