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Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten welcomed Katy Gallagher to the Senate as a star recruit on Friday, but is yet to say whether he will offer her a place on his front bench.
Her resignation as Chief Minister on Friday paves the way for Treasurer Andrew Barr to take on the job on Wednesday, with the endorsement of Ms Gallagher. Ms Gallagher will leave the Assembly before Christmas and is expected to take up a Senate seat from April 1, with Kate Lundy departing on March 31.
Her resignation after 13 years in the ACT Assembly and three and a half years as Chief Minister dramatically changes the electoral landscape for ACT Labor.
Mr Barr becomes the first Chief Minister from Labor's Right faction, and is the first openly gay leader of any state or territory.
He faces an election in 2016 with an unprecedented deficit, a light rail project due to be under way, and the enormous difficulties presented by the Mr Fluffy demolition. His team loses enormous experience and capability with Ms Gallagher, and he must find eight extra candidates to field a team of 25 in what will be a significantly expanded Assembly.
Mr Barr and Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell announced late on Friday afternoon that they would nominate for Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister respectively.
"Labor will have another close and effective leadership team," Mr Barr said.
"I have known Simon for more than 20 years and look forward to working even more closely with him. I am passionate about this city and its future and would be privileged to serve Canberra as Chief Minister.
"I thank Katy for endorsing Simon and myself as the next ACT Labor leadership team."
Mr Corbell said: "Andrew Barr will be a great progressive Chief Minister; I would be honoured to support him and my Labor colleagues as Deputy Chief Minister."
The Labor caucus will meet Wednesday morning to confirm the new leadership team.
Asked about her departure with the Mr Fluffy scheme barely under way, the tram not yet signed off and the budget in a parlous state, Ms Gallagher said there would always be an unfinished project but this was the right time to leave.
"One thing I've learned in this job is that … there is always something that comes next," she said. "You might solve a problem you might deal with a problem you might finish a problem and then there's another one. So there is no perfect time for anything.
"In terms of the capacity of the team that's standing next to me, they've all got it. They know it. I am not the government; I am one member of the government. I've led the government and now it's time for someone else."
Ms Gallagher said she had been contacted by a number of federal politicians over the past five days who had persuaded her to take the job. Mr Shorten's personal intervention had contributed to her decision, but was not the only reason she was going.
"I've weighed up a whole range of reasons that have leading to the decision I've ultimately taken. It's not just one about me. I think it's also important for renewal locally and I have no doubt that this team that stands behind me will win the 2016 election. They've got to roll their sleeves up and work but they'll do it."
Ms Gallagher said she had told Mr Shorten she wanted to be "useful" and former chief minister Jon Stanhope said it would be a "travesty" if she wasn't offered an immediate front-bench position. But Mr Shorten said while she was a distinguished candidate and a great addition to the Senate team, he had given her no guarantees. "She's a remarkable person," he said. "Whatever Katy does, she's good at it."
Ms Gallagher insisted she was tough enough to mix it in Federal Parliament, insisting "you don't have to be impolite" to be effective.
Ms Gallagher looks to be the only candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Lundy, but ACT Labor will open a formal 10-day nomination period for anyone else who wants to put up their hand on Monday. If anyone else does stand, it will hold a pre-selection ballot on January 31. Among other names canvassed for Senator Lundy's seat, Mr Stanhope has thrown his support behind Ms Gallagher and ruled out standing, and Mr Fluffy campaigner Brianna Heseltine doesn't qualify, not having been a member of the party for two years.
Ms Gallagher's replacement in the ACT Assembly looks set to be Meegan Fitzharris, who was significantly ahead of other candidates on first preferences and will get a bigger share of Ms Gallagher's preference flow. Ms Fitzharris is a member of the party's Right faction, helping to give the right the dominant position in the caucus.
Opposition leader Jeremy Hanson said Ms Gallagher's departure left a big hole for Labor. Of Mr Barr, he said: "He has weaknesses and they will no doubt be shown out over the next couple of years, but I'm not going to use today to litigate that case."
Which Labor MLA should take over from Katy Gallagher as the next chief minister of the ACT?
Poll closed 11 Dec, 2014
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