Senator Richard Di Natale has made the shock decision to quit federal politics to spend more time with his family, opening the way for a new Greens party leader.
“This morning I took the incredibly difficult decision to step down as Parliamentary Leader of The Australian Greens,” Victorian senator Di Natale posted on Facebook just after 11am on Monday.
“It’s not something that’s easily put into words, because representing this incredible movement has been one of the biggest honours of my life. Farewell and thank you for everything.”
The unexpected announcement comes just a day before federal parliament was due to resume for 2020, and as the Nationals party also faces a possible leadership spill on Tuesday.
Di Natale called his time in politics — 10 years in the Senate, five as Greens leader — “a privilege and an honour” but spoke about the “tough” life of parliament.
“Before I became one of them, I thought that politicians who said they want to ‘spend more time with their family’ were guilty of using one of the biggest cliches in politics. As it turns out, in some cases it’s true,” he said in a long statement announcing his resignation.
“My boys are nine and 11 years old and they have only ever known their dad as a busy, tired and sometimes grumpy politician. As they grow up quickly to become young men, I want to spend more time by their side than a relentless political schedule allows.”
He was first elected to the Senate in 2010, the first Greens senator ever to be elected from Victoria, after a career as a GP and public health specialist.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported he had spilled the leadership positions of the Greens party, meaning current deputy leaders Adam Bandt and Larissa Waters will also have to stand for their positions again.
It was not immediately clear who would put their hand up to replace Di Natale as leader of the Greens. The party will hold a vote tomorrow to determine its new leadership.
As Di Natale is a senator, his resignation will not trigger a by-election — instead, the Greens will choose his replacement in parliament. He will stay on until that process is completed, which he said he expected to occur in mid-2020.
The shock news adds to the leadership turmoil currently brewing in Canberra, as the Nationals prepare for a possible partyroom spill in the wake of deputy leader Bridget McKenzie’s resignation on Sunday.
Former party leader and deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said he would make a tilt at the leadership if the opportunity arose.
Veteran MP for Kennedy, Bob Katter, also announced on Monday he would hand over the reins of his Katter’s Australia Party to his son, Robbie — a member of the Queensland state parliament.
More to come.