2 Feb 2013

Gillard shuffles top team after double resignation

8:37 pm on 2 February 2013

Australia's prime minister Julia Gillard has been forced into a major Cabinet reshuffle less than eight months out from the federal election, following the resignations of two senior ministers.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and Senate Leader Chris Evans are stepping down from their portfolios and will quit politics later this year.

But Mr Evans said there were no negative reasons behind his resignation.

"I want to make it very clear - I'm not leaving tired, sick or bitter. I'm leaving fit, healthy and confident in the future of the Government."

Ms Gillard has used the opportunity to make wider changes to the Government frontbench, including moving Chris Bowen out of the Immigration portfolio to become Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, as well as Minister for Small Business.

Mark Dreyfus, who is a Queens Counsel and currently the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, will replace Ms Roxon as Attorney-General.

Ms Gillard has paid tribute to her two departing ministers, saying both have done amazing things for the Government, the nation and the Labor Party.

"They have worked in critical portfolios and leave a proud legacy of Labor reforms which have helped create a stronger, fairer modern Australia."

Ms Roxon will move to the backbench until retiring at the next election. The move will prompt a hotly-contested pre-selection process in her Melbourne electorate of Gellibrand, which is Labor's second safest seat with a margin of 24.1%.

Mr Evans plans to leave Parliament before the next election, meaning his replacement will be sworn in well before the official campaign begins in August, the ABC reports.