Federal Labor MP Duncan Kerr will retire at the next federal election and return to the legal profession as a barrister.

He has been the MP for the Hobart-based Tasmanian seat of Dension since 1987 and is currently Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs. He was justice minister for three years in the Keating government and was Attorney-General for a few months pending the re-election of Michael Lavarch (who had to run again after another candidate died during the campaign).

Kerr grew up in Hobart’s working class northern suburbs and never forgot his origins: His loyalty to his working class base saw the seat transformed from a marginal swinger (he won it off a Liberal) into safe Labor, currently 16 per cent. Kerr earned his law degree at the University of Tasmania and later became Dean of the law school in PNG. As a Senior Counsel he has appeared before the High Court.

A member of Labor’s Left faction he is a noted human rights campaigner (and tussled with the party’s shift to the right on refugees), intellectual and collector of modern art. He is a cricket tragic and long-time supporter of Saint Kilda.

A plan for Kerr to shift to the Tasmanian parliament and become premier following the health-related retirement of the now-late Jim Bacon was thwarted by then federal Labor leader Simon Crean, who did not want the distraction of a by-election for Kerr’s seat. Paul Lennon went on to become premier…

Competition to replace Kerr in Denison is expected to be fierce, although Tasmanian Labor’s well-disciplined factional apparatus is likely to keep the blood behind closed doors. Early indications are Jonathan Jackson, the bright and well-liked son of popular former state Labor government minister Judy Jackson, is a front-runner.

Tasmanian Miscellaneous union chief David O’Byrne, brother of state minister and former federal Bass MP Michelle, is another name mentioned although he is currently campaigning hard for election to Franklin in next year’s state poll. All who come across Kerr regard him as thoroughly decent and fair-minded. He is one of the good guys and his intellect and humanity will be sorely missed.

Seems everyone’s a winner as far as the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association is concerned. PANPA has announced there are 21 “finalists” for the newspaper industry’s “Newspaper of the Year” award which will be announced on Thursday night at Sydney’s Masonic Centre. The Bay of Plenty Times, Manly Daily, and Sunshine Coast Daily are finalists for the coveted prize along with virtually every other newspaper in Australia and New Zealand. Surprisingly, Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which lost over $100 million last year and had plummeting circulation, are still in the running.

Re. Crikey’s story on the SMH‘s Good Food Guide, it sounds awfully like the Melbourne Good Food Guide launch where no acknowledgement/thanks/mention was given to the previous editors John Lethlean and Necia Wilden.

Under their stewardship, the Melbourne guide had significant growth year-on-year and was regarded by consumers and the industry alike as “the Bible” to Melbourne food. Feedback from those attending this year’s launch said it was a “weird and eerie” feeling for Lethlean and Wilden to not be there and that “the soul of the guide has gone”.

Fairfax were more than a bit peeved by the duo’s departure to the Weekend Australian Magazine, the circulation of which has risen 2.5% since they started. Indeed it seems even spouses of Fairfax exec’s are somewhat miffed by the duo’s defection, given the comments made on twitter by Pat Churchill, wife of Fairfax exec Don Churchill (chief executive and publisher, Melbourne Publishing), quote:

RT @JohnandNecia See Wkd ozmag tomorrow for our survey of 50 Great Aus restnts>> how novel! (via @crazybrave) maybe they’re feeling left out

Fairfax will be praying that the duo don’t find their way into The Australian mid-week as that could result in a very short season for the Fairfax food and wine stranglehold given their vulnerability with the “reheating” of Terry Durack and the struggling apprenticeship of Lethlean’s replacement, Larissa Dubecki.

How come the Learning & Development Department at the ABC can’t keep their Senior Managers? Seems the latest one only lasted until lunchtime!

For those watching Crikey‘s log of the descent of Michael McGurk’s reputation in the pages of Fairfax papers, the Sydney Morning Herald described him as a “standover man,” a “loan shark,” and “a low-life character.” These terms might well be applied to some of his associates in business and politics, but the Herald may not risk ascribing such terms to the living.

More on 2UE. Fairfax radio’s boss, Graham Mott has determined that the timeslots like breakfast, mornings and drive will hosted by what’s called double headers (or two people). It was how breakfast with the departing Mike Carlton and the staying Sandi Aloisi was run this year. Poison radio (AKA 2GB and Ray Hadley and the like) and car crash radio (AKA 2DayFM and the newly suspended Kyle Sandilands). are out.

Mott wants a kinder, gentler style of broadcasting, and much cheaper, hence the decision to not renew the very expensive Carlton. Mott and 2UE management put a budget for the revamp up to Fairfax Media management who put the axe through it, making it even cheaper.

Mott has apparently noticed that the counter-programmed ABC local station, 702 (nee 2BL), rates very well in the more cutthroat Sydney market. Richard Glover in Drive for 702 does very well and is usually the first or second rated program in the slot and the most listened to among the AM talkers.

At 2GB Ray Hadley is continuing to hammer the desk and shake the mike and tell everybody in management that he’s the new Alan Jones and not Jason Morrison. They should put both in a cage.

From the Crikey Sightings desk:

Spotted. At 7.15am this morning did I see Crikey’s deputy editor Sophie Black on Sunrise with the “Satin Top” that you watch out for on so many other female presenters? [ED: Yes, it’s true, and consider it a tribute and a nod to all Satin wearers that have gone before her.]