One of the Coalition’s most recognisable faces has announced he’s quitting politics.
Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo has confirmed he won’t contest the next election amid weeks of speculation.
He could be the first of two high profile resignations, with Defence Minister Christopher Pyne reportedly set announce his intention to leave politics tomorrow.
Mr Ciobo joins an increasingly long list of senior government figures jumping ship at the election, which already includes Julie Bishop, Kelly O’Dwyer, Michael Keenan and Nigel Scullion.
“After 17 years in parliament, I have taken the decision that it’s time to move on to something else,” Mr Ciobo told The Australian.
“I’ve always said that politics is a means not an end. Now is the time to do something else.”
Sky News reports Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering a ministerial reshuffle following Mr Ciobo’s departure, which would be one of the closest to an election in Australia’s history.
Mr Ciobo is reportedly stepping down as minister while Mr Pyne is set to remain in his role and take care of the two portfolios until the election.
Mr Ciobo told Sky his decision was not based on a presumption of the Coalition was likely losing the May election.
“I recognise we are behind, we are the underdog going to this election, it’s going to be tough … I want to look forward to having a beer on election night and seeing Scott Morrison elected as Prime Minister,” he said.
Mr Ciobo said the situation might have been different if he’d become Deputy Leader in the part he played to remove Malcolm Turnbull six months ago.
Mr Pyne occupies the South Australian seat Sturt, which the Liberal Party holds with a fairly comfortable margin of 5.8 per cent. Internal party polling recently showed Mr Pyne would easily retain it.
Mr Ciobo holds the Queensland seat Moncrieff by almost 15 per cent.
News.com.au has contacted both ministers’ offices for comment.
Awkwardly, Mr Pyne had to host his Sky News program Pyne & Marles this afternoon. He poked fun at the speculation about his future.
“Once I decide to announce my retirement, you’ll be the first to know,” he told his co-host, Labor MP Richard Marles.
“Oh come on, let’s do it now. We will never get a better opportunity to win a Walkley than right now,” Mr Marles said.
“Do you think that if I announce my retirement on Sky, Pyne & Marles will go from 12 viewers to 25 viewers?” Mr Pyne joked.
Ms Bishop quit the ministry in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull’s knifing, but having been foreign minister and deputy leader of the Liberal Party for years, remained the Coalition’s most popular MP.
She announced her decision to quit at the election at the end of the year’s first parliamentary sitting fortnight last month.
RELATED: Why Julie Bishop is quitting
“During the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to closely consider the future of the Coalition government and the pending general election,” Ms Bishop told parliament.
“The government will be returned to office because it is focusing on what matters to the Australian people. And on that basis, I have reconsidered my position as the member for Curtin,” she said.
“I’ve been contacted by a number of talented, indeed extraordinary people, including women, who have indicated to me that should I not recontest the seat of Curtin, they would seek preselection.
“It is time for a new member to take my place.”
In the months before her decision, Ms Bishop repeatedly said she “intended” to recontest Curtin. That’s the same language Mr Pyne has been using.
Ms O’Dwyer, the Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations, is leaving politics to spend more time with her young children.
“In composing photo books and looking at the special moments over the Christmas period I’ve seen how many I have missed and I know how many I will miss,” she said in January.
“I no longer want to consistently miss out on seeing my children when I wake up in the morning and when I got to bed at night.”
Ms O’Dwyer said she and her husband wanted to have another child and “everything would have to go right”.
“Like so many families, our journey to parenthood has not been straightforward and if my husband and I want to give ourselves the opportunity for a third child, we have to be realistic.”
Her Victorian electorate, Higgins, could be under threat at the election.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan also cited family as his reason for resigning.
“While politics is a proud vocation, it is also a difficult and exhausting business,” Mr Keenan said.
“The pressures on family life are formidable, as are the constant rigours of being an effective member of parliament, as well as a minister in the government.
“I have always worked hard as a member of parliament and as a minister, but after doing this for 15 years, I cannot commit to another term.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he would quit his Northern Territory Senate seat less than 24 hours after Mr Keenan’s January announcement.
“It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve the people of the Northern Territory for the last 17 years in the Australian Senate,” Mr Scullion said.
“My path to public office wasn’t a conventional one. I was just an everyday fisherman and sometime buffalo shooter and I raised my three beautiful children Sarah, Daniel and Luke on a fishing boat off the coast of Gove and North East Arnhem Land.
“John Howard famously said the Coalition is a very broad church and the fact that it has allowed a bloke like me to sit around its cabinet table shows just why it continues to be the party hardworking Australian families keep putting their trust and faith in.”
Mr Scullion did not elaborate on his reasons for quitting.
The other MP reportedly considering his position is former minister Craig Laundy, one of Malcolm Turnbull’s most loyal supporters.
Mr Laundy holds the Sydney seat Reid with a margin of 4.7 per cent.
Tony Pasin was the Liberal MP with the unfortunate task of going on TV immediately after today’s news broke.
“Politics is an interesting profession. There are so many reasons why someone might make the decision that their journey has come to an end, and for the Labor Party and the commentariat to infer that it has some sort of direct correlation with our prospects at the next election, quite frankly, is a relatively long bow,” Mr Pasin said.
“Many of the people who’ve come to their decision have come to it for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with our political fortunes one way or another.
“Politicians are human people. We have the human condition. We have families, we have other demands on us and that’s driving a lot of decisions in and around politics on both sides of the chamber.”
Meanwhile, Labor leader Bill Shorten pounced.
“I think cabinet ministers retiring on the eve of an election shows this is a government that’s given up,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Morrison government is divided, it’s unstable, and now we see people just simply giving up on the government.
“I say to Australians, if the ministers in the government are giving up on the government, you should too.”