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Gago rules out parachute from parliament


Outgoing Employment minister Gail Gago has ruled out an early departure from parliament, saying she takes her “responsibility” as an MP “very seriously”.

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Speaking to media ahead of her final cabinet meeting today, Gago said she was feeling “very relaxed” and “excited about the next stage of my life”.

But she committed to remain in parliament rather than make way for a casual vacancy, despite the recent elevation of union boss Peter Malinauskas to the Upper House becoming the trigger for a cabinet reshuffle that will be finalised tomorrow.

Labor’s caucus will meet at 4pm today to elect two new ministers – likely to be Malinauskas and fellow Right-winger Leesa Vlahos – with portfolios to be confirmed at a swearing-in tomorrow.

Gago would not be drawn on who should replace her, saying: “Look, these are a matter for the party, they are arrangements that the party will attend to and that will be dealt with internally.”

She has previously called for her ministry to be filled by another woman – which was never in doubt – but today said she would also be “lobbying hard to ensure when I retire my position in the Upper House will be taken by a woman”.

“All of the women in our party are really competent, passionate, hard-working women, and they all could do the job really well,” she said.

Gago said she had “enjoyed every moment” as a minister across 17 portfolios in a decade, “although it’s not been without its challenges, shall we say”.

Despite ongoing speculation she was set to exit not just the ministry but the parliament, she insisted she felt no pressure to step aside.

“Only in that when I made a decision not to run at the next election, really it was obvious to me then that I needed to step down at some time and make room for the Premier to regenerate the cabinet,” she said.

“We’re asking for a fifth consecutive term of office, which is almost unheard of [so] it’s really important that the Premier has a cabinet experienced and ready for that task.

“My intention is to complete my term of office – I’ve been elected until 2018, and I take those responsibilities very seriously.”

After Opposition Leader Steven Marshall reorganised his own frontbench last week, it’s likely there will be a broader shake-up.

Arriving for this morning’s cabinet meeting, Transport and Infrustructure Minister Stephen Mullighan played a straight bat over questions about his own portfolios, including whether John Rau’s Planning portfolio could be up for grabs.

“I’m not sure… that will be up to the Premier,” he said.

“I’m willing to serve in any capacity the Premier would like me to… that will be a matter we consider internally.”

Similarly tight-lipped was Communities and Social Inclusion Minister Zoe Bettison, who was considered vulnerable but retains her ministry at the expense of fellow Right-faction appointee Tony Piccolo.

“A few names have been put forward,” she said of the likely inclusions.

“We’ve got a lot of talent out there, but we’ll wait and see how we go.”

The Labor Unity Right faction will hold a meeting ahead of the full caucus, with convener Sonia Romeo last week calling for expressions of interest for factional support for a frontbench position.

However, insiders expect the meeting will rubber-stamp the two mooted nominations, with no ballot expected.

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