Prime Minister Julia Gillard's campaign in disarray as Chris Evans resigns and Robert McClelland may vacate his seat
- Simon Benson
- The Daily Telegraph
- February 02, 2013 1:12AM
JULIA GILLARD has been forced into an emergency Cabinet reshuffle following the shock resignations last night of Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Higher Education Minister Chris Evans.
Ms Roxon is set to announce today she will quit Cabinet but remain in Parliament until the election.
Senior government sources confirmed the resignations which come only only days after the Prime Minister announced an election for September 14.
Ms Gillard will face caucus on Monday before Parliament resumes the following day with the government in chaos.
Last night frantic calls were being made among senior MPs as word leaked out about the resignations, with renewed talk about the stability of Ms Gillard's leadership. Ms Roxon's decision comes only days after she rolled back controversial anti-discrimination legislation banning conduct that offends, insults or intimidates.
It also emerged last night that Robert McClelland, who Ms Gillard sacked as attorney-general, is being considered for a judicial post by the state government.
An appointment of Mr McClelland to the bench could spark a by-election in his southern Sydney seat of Barton if he took up the post before September.
Before this week it would have added to the fears of a by-election bringing down the government, with suspended former Labor MP Craig Thomson and former speaker Peter Slipper both facing criminal charges and also considered potential early retirees.
Ms Gillard's early announcement of the election date, however, may have quarantined the government from collapse.
Senior government sources confirmed a parliamentary precedent going back to 1966 states that a by-election can be called off if the date of the general election is known.
However the government appeared to be imploding last night, with Ms Roxon's intention to resign following news Mr Evans was leaving.
A cabinet reshuffle was imminent as a result.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, a Rudd supporter, is expected to be moved sideways to take Mr Evans' portfolio.
Schools Minister Brendan O'Connor, a Gillard loyalist, is believed to be a taking the immigration portfolio.
Other changes are expected in another purge of Rudd backers, with parliamentary secretary Justine Elliot likely to be dropped.
Stephen Conroy is believed to be angling to take over from Mr Evans as government leader of the Senate.
It is believed Ms Roxon will be replaced by Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus QC, a former Melbourne barrister.
It's a shambolic start to the election, albeit one almost eight months away.
Mr McClelland made his shock announcement on Tuesday that he would not contest the next election and he has so far not publicly committed to staying until the election.
"I have indicated an intention to not contest the next election and obviously I am considering a number of options for my post-parliamentary career," he said.
The Daily Telegraph has confirmed Mr McClelland, a key supporter of Mr Rudd, had recently applied and been interviewed for the $265,000-a-year post as a commissioner on the bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
A decision on key appointments to the IRC is expected to be finalised by the end of February or early March.