Shock resignations to prompt reshuffle

2:04am February 2, 2013
February 02, 2013: Federal Senate Leader Chris Evans is expected to quit as Education Minister later today, forcing the Prime Minister into a Cabinet reshuffle.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is facing a major reshuffle of her front bench with the news that two of her senior ministers are resigning.

Chris Evans will announce his retirement as government leader in the Senate and minister for tertiary education, skills, science and research, Fairfax Media reported on Friday night.

Just hours after the news of Senator Evans' impending departure broke, News Limited newspapers reported Attorney-General Nicola Roxon would also resign from cabinet on Saturday.

The Daily Telegraph said Ms Roxon would remain in parliament and quit politics at the September 14 election, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard called just two days ago.

Ms Roxon will likely be replaced by Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change Mark Dreyfus QC, a former Melbourne barrister, News Limited said.

The reports were supported by tweets from Sky News host Peter van Onselen and Seven Network's Mark Riley.

Former attorney-general Nicola Roxon. (AAP)
Former attorney-general Nicola Roxon. (AAP)

"Nicola Roxon to resign from cabinet early tomorrow," van Onselen tweeted late on Friday night.

The departures would mean Ms Gillard would have to reshuffle her front bench during the lengthy unofficial election campaign.

Senator Evans' WA Senate colleague, Mark Bishop, told AAP the senator's Perth colleagues had been aware for "some time" that the commute to Canberra was taking its toll.

"I think the actual timing is a surprise," he said on Friday night.

"Chris has been commenting to people for some time that he is tired."

He said the resignation could have serious organisational and political "consequences" for Labor in WA.

Former Labor frontbencher Chris Evans. (AAP)
Former Labor frontbencher Chris Evans. (AAP)

"Chris had access to everyone who was important in Western Australia ... the government will lose that inside edge," Senator Bishop said.

News Limited speculated that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was likely to be moved into the higher education and skills portfolio.

It also suggested Housing Minister Brendan O'Connor may take the immigration portfolio, while Stephen Conroy was believed to be keen to succeed Senator Evans as government leader of the Senate.

AAP understands Victorian senator Kim Carr may also put his hand up for the job.

A spokeswoman for Senator Conroy, who is the government's deputy Senate leader, said she could not confirm he would move to take the reins from Senator Evans.

A spokesman for Mr Bowen said he was unable to comment on the expected resignation or any cabinet reshuffle.

© AAP 2014
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