A body blow
THE surprise departure of two of the Government’s most senior figures is a very bad look on two levels.
First, because it undermines the message of stability and certainty that Julia Gillard delivered at significant political cost just four days ago when she gave up the tactical advantage of being able to call the election at five weeks' notice.
Suddenly, the detailed plan the Prime Minister unveiled at the National Press Club for the election year will have to proceed without two of its most important ingredients.
Attorney General Nicola Roxon Photo: Janie Barrett
Second, because it suggests a lack of confidence about Labor’s prospects of securing an unlikely third term under Gillard on September 14.
While Chris Evans’ departure, after eight years as Labor’s Senate leader, was relatively easy to manage, Nicola Roxon’s decision to quit after just 12 months as the country’s first female Attorney-General is a body blow to Gillard.
Not only is she one of the government’s most articulate, appealing and able ministers, she has been one of the prime minister’s staunchest and most effective supporters.
Resigned ... Chris Evans. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Moreover, Chris Bowen’s request to vacate the immigration portfolio while so many issues are unresolved further undermines Gillard’s mantra or stability and certainty.
His promotion to Evan’s tertiary education policy is reward for his work in arguably the toughest job outside the prime ministership, but a huge challenge now confronts his replacement in Brendan O’Connor.
Fortunately for Gillard, the damage done is less because of the way both Evans and Roxon explained their decisions at their media conference with the Prime Minister.
Both projected sincerity, grace and humility as they maintained their reasons were personal and their confidence in Gillard and Labor’s prospects was undiminished. Evans even managed to inject a good dose of wry humour.
Both deserve praise for deciding after lengthy political careers that they have other priorities and other responsibilities that now deserve attention.
For her part, Gillard projected confidence that the departures will pave the way for fresh talent, new ideas and new energy in the months leading up to September 14, but this doesn’t change this immediate impact.
If the plan was to commence the parliamentary year with momentum and brimming with confidence, the reality is that Labor is, once again, in damage control.