by Xu Haijing
CANBERRA, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Two ministers of Australia's Julia Gillard government announced to resign on Saturday, leading to a government reshuffle only three days after the prime minister fixed the date for the federal election on Sept. 14.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Labor leader in Senate Chris Evans, and Federal Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management Nicola Roxon resigned from their ministerial roles.
At a press conference on Saturday with the two outgoing Labor frontbenchers, Prime Minister Gillard announced: "Two of my most senior and valued colleagues ... are stepping down from their ministerial roles and in the case of Chris Evans from the Senate leadership as well."
Evans said he would also step down from the Senate in a few months when a suitable replacement could be found. A ballot to replace him as Senate leader will be held at Monday's caucus meeting.
Parliament will start the first seating week of the new year next week.
Evans said it had been a tremendous honor to be part of the Labor government and he had even been acting prime minister for a few days - and "nothing went terribly wrong" in that time.
In June 2008, Evans became acting prime minister when then leader Kevin Rudd and then deputy Julia Gillard were overseas.
Roxon said she was very proud of her role in the Labor government and of Gillard's leadership, but "It is time to move on and I have reached that point."
She said she had not met her husband when she was first elected in 1998 and if she contested the next election her daughter would be in high school by the time her term ended.
Roxon will move to the backbench until the election, when her departure will create a vacancy in her safe Melbourne seat of Gellibrand.
Both Evans and Roxon denied that they quit to abandon the " sinking ship" of the Labor party ahead of the federal election in September.
"Like Chris (Evans) I believe we can win the next election," Roxon said.
The prime minister denied that the reshuffle showed that her government was in turmoil. She said she didn't have anyone else in her team at the moment saying they wanted to leave and declared that she expected the lineup announced Saturday to contest the Sept. 14 poll.
Gillard said the reshuffle was a "long-planned announcement" and that the two first raised their futures with her a year ago.
"This is precisely the right time because parliament resumes next week," she said. "I have always had it in my mind that this was the appropriate time."
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said from flood-hit Queensland town of Bundaberg, where he was inspecting flood damage, that Australians had the right to expect stability in the government.
"It is going to be very important in the days and weeks ahead that there is a strong and stable government in Canberra and I regret to say that just at the moment that doesn't appear to be the case," he said.
"Now I hope the prime minister can steady her ship and offer stable government."
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will replace Evans as minister for tertiary education, skills, science and research, while Victorian MP Mark Dreyfus will be promoted to become attorney- general.
Brendan O'Connor will become minister for immigration and citizenship and Mark Butler will take on O'Connor's housing and homelessness portfolio. Jason Clare, minister for home affairs and minister for justice, will take Dreyfus' role of cabinet secretary. Clare's portfolio of defense material will be taken by Mike Kelly.
Gillard said she was promoting a number of people into the parliamentary secretary ranks, including Yvette D'Ath, climate change and energy efficiency, Kelvin Thompson, trade, and Melissa Parke, mental health, homelessness and social housing.
The prime minister said she would recommend to the governor- general that the new members of the ministry be sworn in on Monday.