Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has announced his immediate resignation, saying his “head and my heart are no longer in the job”.
Mr Gunner made his bombshell announcement in an emotional speech while handing down the Territory’s budget on Tuesday.
He followed it up with a media briefing shortly after.
“I can look all Territorians in the eye and I couldn’t say I could keep giving 100 per cent every day. If I can’t do that, I shouldn’t be in the chair,” he said.
Mr Gunner’s announcement came just over a week after he welcomed his second son with wife Kristy O’Brien on May 1.
“I know that life is unpredictable and can be cut short. When I held Nash for the first time, that was it, game over. I knew straightaway, that I was done,” he said.
The couple also have a two-year-old, Hudson.
The 46-year-old said he would complete his final engagement as chief minister on Tuesday morning, and then take several weeks paternity leave. He intends to remain in parliament, as the member for the Darwin seat of Fannie Bay.
“It has been a privilege to serve as your chief minister, one of the honours of my life. I am the first Territory-born chief. I was born here, I have worked to start a family here, I will die happy here,” he said.
“I love the Territory. It is a place of potential and possibility for us all. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can have a crack and make something of yourself.
“I think my own story shows that. I grew up in public housing and stacked shelves to get himself through uni, can serve the Territory as its chief minister.”
Mr Gunner’s surprise announcement came as he delivered the NT’s budget for 2022/23. He said the foundations for the Territory’s future were set.
“They are solid. An economy that is strong and getting stronger. A budget that is heading back to surplus. And a government that is in safe hands,” he said.
Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison will be acting chief minister, until a new parliamentary Labor leader is determined on Friday.
Ms Manison is strongly favoured to take the position. She praised Mr Gunner on Tuesday.
“[You are] somebody who has set the foundations, economically and socially so our kids grow up with more opportunities and so many more Territory children are going to grow up and have a better life,” she said.
Mr Gunner was first elected to the NT parliament in 2008 and became opposition leader in 2015.
He led Labor to a landslide victory in 2016, saying he had been fortunate to lead a united team.
“We have returned stability to the Territory government,” he said.
“No midnight coups, weekly reshuffles. No waking up to wonder who is running the show.”
Mr Gunner’s government was returned easily in 2020, partly on the back of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included tough travel restrictions and widespread vaccine mandates.
– with AAP