Julia Gillard’s leadership has been rocked with the resignation of WA Senator Chris Evans and Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
The Prime Minister has been forced to reshuffle her ministry just days after announcing the election will be held on September 14.
The announcement was made at a press conference held by the Prime Minister, Senator Evans and Ms Roxon this morning.
The Prime Minister described Ms Roxon and Senator Evans as two of her "most senior and valued colleagues".
She said their futures within the Government were first discussed a year ago.
"Both Chris and Nicola have done amazing things for this Government, for the nation and for the Labor party," she said.
Senator Evans said he would also step down from the senate in a few months when a suitable replacement could be found.
He had been talking to the Prime Minister about a planned departure for some time.
“I didn’t want to serve following the next election,” he told reporters.
Senator Evans said it had been a tremendous honour to be part of the Labor Government and he had even been acting Prime Minister for a few days - and “nothing went terribly wrong” in that time.
Senator Evans, who is from the party’s Left, apparently told Ms Gillard the workload and constant travel had worn him down.
"I'm not leaving tired, sick and bitter I'm leaving fit, healthy and confident in the state of the Government," he said today.
The British-born senator, who is married with two sons, entered Federal politics in 1993.
A ballot to replace him as Senate leader will be held at Monday’s caucus meeting.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will replace Senator Evans as minister for tertiary education, skills, science and research.
Ms Roxon became emotional as she said she was very proud of her role in the Labor Government and of Ms Gillard’s leadership.
“It is time to move on and I have reached that point,” she said today.
She said she had not met her husband when she entered politics and if she contested the next election her daughter would be in high school by the time her term ended.
“Like Chris (Evans) I believe we can win the next election,” she said.
“I think the mission that we have as a Labor Government is a very good one and a very strong one,” Ms Roxon said.
Ms Roxon thanked Ms Gillard who “seems to be made of titanium“ for her strong leadership.
Victorian MP Mark Dreyfus will be promoted to become attorney-general.
Ms Gillard became emotional when she talked about the “big shoes” to be filled.
She said Mr Bowen would also pick up the responsibility for small business.
Mr Dreyfus will replace Ms Roxon both as attorney general and minister for emergency management, relinquishing the role of cabinet secretary to Jason Clare, who retains home affairs and justice.
Brendan O’Connor will become minister for immigration and citizenship and Mark Butler will take on Mr O’Connor’s housing and homelessness portfolio.
Mike Kelly enters the ministry as minister for defence materiel.
Ms Gillard said she was promoting a number of people into the parliamentary secretary ranks - Yvette D’Ath (climate change and energy efficiency), Kelvin Thompson (trade) and Melissa Parke (mental health, homelessness and social housing).
She announced Justine Elliot was relinquishing her role as parliamentary secretary for trade.
The Prime Minister said she would recommend to the governor-general that the new members of the ministry be sworn in on Monday.
The timing of the departures is a blow for Ms Gillard as she faces renewed pressure after former Labor MP Craig Thomson was charged on Thursday over his use of a union credit card. It is also expected they will reignite leadership tensions within the party.
It is understood Ms Gillard made it clear she wants her team committed to the herculean task her Government faces to be re-elected.
Ms Gillard was asked about the timing of these key resignations, seeing she had been talking to Ms Roxon and Senator Evans for a year and had just announced this year’s election date.
“This is precisely the right time because parliament resumes next week,” she said.
“I have always had it in my mind that this was the appropriate time.”
She said she didn’t have anyone else in her team at the moment saying they wanted to leave.
Ms Gillard said she believed her reshuffled cabinet was the team she would be taking to the next election.
She said personal reasons and health issues sometimes do get in the way of politics.
“I can’t wish away the real world ... but this is the team I intend to take to the next election.”
She said Mr Bowen had been looking for a new challenge and had been working in a difficult portfolio for some time.
Ms Roxon will move to the backbench until the election, when her departure will create a vacancy in her safe Melbourne seat of Gellibrand.
“My only regret as health minister is the inordinate amount of time we were too long fixing many of the problems that Mr Abbott left from his time as health minister,” she said.
Senator Evans’ resignation also triggers a full caucus ballot to replace him as Senate leader.
Traditionally the job goes to a non-right-winger because the leader is usually from the Right.
But Ms Gillard’s background is in the Left faction. A Labor source said last night it seemed deputy Senate leader Stephen Conroy, a right-winger, would seek the job.Finance Minister Penny Wong has said she will not run for Senate leader due to her young family.
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