BILL BYRNE: Life after retirement from politics
BILL BYRNE’S only complaint these days is the weather when it’s a bit too rough to go fishing – leaving him “trapped ashore”.
The former Member for Rockhampton is now living a life of leisure, spending quality time with his wife Kim and their grandchildren.
This month marks two years since Bill stepped down from politics leaving the door open to Barry O’Rourke to take his place and retain the blue ribbon Labor seat for Rockhampton.
Bill was also a member of the Queensland Cabinet as the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Economic Development.
He stepped down after advice from his doctor due to cardiovascular issues.
Speaking to The Morning Bulletin this week and reflecting on retired life; Bill says he is fulfilled and content.
“It feels like a lot longer than two years; feels like a long, long, long time ago for me,” he said. “I am incredibly comfortable and happy with my life at the moment.
“I am being a grandfather, fishing, gardening, cooking, enjoying going socialising with old Army colleagues on the odd occasion.
“I am doing the exercise I have always wanted to do. I get an enormous amount of joy about swimming 30 or 40 laps down at the pool.
“It got to a point with blood pressure if I didn’t do something about it I was riding the stroke zone.
“As of the last 12 months my blood pressure is completely normalised for a guy my age.
“And I have done a lot to do that. I have changed my life fundamentally. I got healthy, gave up cigarettes and I now drink one per cent of what I did before.”
He calls himself a “domesticated grandfather” as he is now the chef of the house.
He has taken over all of the kitchen duties even including the grocery run.
Last week he was proud of a nasi goreng dish he made with authentic ingredients, but his real speciality is fresh fish and salad.
“Kim used to say to me for many, many years, ‘What do you want for dinner?’ and I said, ‘I didn’t care as long as it’s good.’ Now it’s me asking every morning,” Bill said.
“I find it (cooking) really therapeutic.
“It’s surprised me how much Kim appreciates it. If only I’d known how useful a bloke being handy around the kitchen was in a relationship I might have taken it on years ago.”
He attributes his happiness to what he is focused on at the moment and part of that is being a devoted grandfather.
Bill didn’t want to be an “absent grandfather”.
“They (the grandchildren) give me an enormous amount of joy,” he said.
He has two grandchildren so far, Wyatt and Isla, and there is another on the way, due early in the new year.
“I hope to be a better grandfather than I was a father,” he said.
He’s also been able to take up one of his greatest passions – fishing.
Since retiring he bought the fishing boat he had always wanted and heads offshore fishing quite frequently.
Bill is revelling in the side scans, fish finders and sonars in today’s world.
“Some of the technology you get on fishing boats now is incredible,” he said.
He will take what he can reel in but red emperor and coral trout are his favourite fish to catch.
“I am spending a lot of time over the horizon fishing and with the grandchildren,” he said.
“I’m happy. The only thing I am cranky about is it’s just been a little bit too rough in the last couple of weeks to go out fishing and the fin fish closures have been in for a few days for the offshore fishing, so I have been trapped ashore.
“My boat’s in the shed and I am not able to go out and catch some fish for dinner.”
As for politics and asked if he would come back, Bill said he “never says never”.
“I pay very little attention to politics generally,” he said.
“If you’ve led people or commanded a unit, once you’ve left that position, you don’t go back there.
“I take a fair bit of interest in the goings-on. You don’t do what I did without taking an interest, but I am not interested enough to be wanting to shape public opinion.”
But what he does miss is the community interaction – being able to do good for constituents.
“A lot of what you do is a social worker. It might sound weird but people come into your office usually at the end of their rope, they have had a lot of things go against them and in some cases we are the last port of call,” he said.
“Sometimes you can help those people; not always.
“When you do manage to improve someone’s situations, that is a reward in itself.”