Gillard's emotional farewell to two ministers
The PM announces the resignation of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans, with a substantial reshuffle to her team including Mark Dreyfus QC to Attorney-General and Chris Bowen to Tertiary Education.PT2M8S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dqy1 620 349 February 2, 2013
Julia Gillard chose to announce the resignation of two senior ministers just days after naming the date of the federal election, in part to stop a battle over the top Senate job becoming a proxy for still simmering leadership tensions.
Senior government sources said that announcing the resignations of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans earlier would have risked a protracted factional fight over Senator Evans's replacement as leader of the government in the Senate.
Ms Gillard's strategists were particularly concerned about a ballot possibly pitting Gillard backer Stephen Conroy, who now appears set to take the job unopposed in a caucus vote on Monday, against the Rudd supporter Kim Carr.
Timing, not content, an issue ... Julia Gillard announced the resignation of Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans early partly to subdue leadership tensions. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
It was the timing, rather than the content, of Ms Gillard's ministerial reshuffle that drew criticism even from some of the Prime Minister's supporters, many of whom thought that with plenty of warning about the resignations she should have announced them before naming the election date seven months early.
''The logic of the appointments is flawless but the logic of the timing of the announcement escapes me,'' said one MP staunchly loyal to Ms Gillard.
The internal questioning came as the former long-serving Victorian premier Steve Bracks was mooted as a possible candidate for Ms Roxon's safe seat of Gellibrand. Mr Bracks lives in the electorate, which overlaps his former state seat. He could not be contacted on Sunday but appeared to have strong support if he chose to stand.
As Parliament resumes on Tuesday for the first of nine sitting weeks before the poll on September 14, the government faces the spectre of byelections, with the former Labor MP Craig Thomson saying it was ''too hard'' to make a decision about his future at the moment.
The government denied Coalition claims that the resignations were evidence it was descending into chaos.
''Let's get real. We have had a couple of people step down for family reasons,'' Anthony Albanese, leader of the government in the lower house, said on the ABC program Insiders. He said no more resignations were expected. But the manager of Coalition business, Christopher Pyne, said the government was ''starting to resemble a scene from Downfall'', a film on the end of Hitler's reign.
Government MPs were also unsettled by the revelation that Robert McClelland - dumped as attorney-general in favour of Ms Roxon just over a year ago - was seeking a judicial appointment in NSW, raising the spectre of a byelection in the Sydney seat of Barton, which he holds with a margin of 6.9 per cent.
Mr McClelland did not return calls on Sunday. Several government sources said he would not resign and trigger a byelection but uncertainty about his intentions and the possibility that Peter Slipper or Craig Thomson could stand aside had sparked debate about how long an electorate should remain unrepresented.
Mr Thomson said he would not decide ''in the emotion of the moment'', suggesting his continued parliamentary service was not assured.
There is no constitutional or legislative time limit on filling vacant seats in byelections, and the decision is made by the speaker. The longest in recent history that a seat was unrepresented was when the Victorian independent Phil Cleary was disqualified in late November 1992. A byelection was not held before the general election on March 13, 1993.
Asked on Saturday about possible byelections, Ms Gillard said: ''Commonsense will tell you when, indeed history tells you, that when you are close in to the normal time for an election, it might well suit the convenience of the people to not be required to go out and vote twice . . . But these are decisions for the Speaker.''
with Tim Lester