First term senator Richard Di Natale has replaced Christine Milne as the leader of the federal Greens, becoming the party’s third leader in three years.
Senator Milne quit the leadership in a surprise 10.30am announcement to party colleagues at Parliament House on Wednesday.
Her lower house deputy Adam Bandt was the casualty of a partyroom meeting concluding about 12.30pm, with senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters chosen to share his role.
Senator Di Natale, a GP and public health specialist, was elected to parliament in 2010 becoming the Greens first Victorian senator.
In his previous career the 44-year-old son of Italian immigrants worked on HIV prevention in India, Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory and Victoria’s health department as part of an outbreak investigation team.
He claims his achievements in parliament as securing almost $5 billion towards Medicare-funded dentistry and winning a campaign to divest $250 million worth of tobacco stocks from the Future Fund.
He has also led Senate inquiries into issues such as dying with dignity, hospital funding, budget cuts, medicinal cannabis and gambling reform.
Most recently he caused a stir by leading a one-man expedition to West Africa to get a first-hand look at the Ebola crisis.
Senator Milne will not contest the next election, likely in late 2016, and has said she may well quit before then.
‘It is with a mix of optimism, pride, excitement and sadness that I am resigning the leadership and leaving the Senate,’ she said in a statement.
Senator Milne was elected to the upper house in 2004 after a stint in the Tasmanian parliament.
She rose to leader of the federal party in 2012 following the resignation of Bob Brown.
‘The Greens have gone from strength to strength with solid election results and a growing, engaged party membership,’ Senator Milne said, adding she was leaving in place a strong, capable and visionary team.
The senator said she was looking forward to spending more time with her family including her new grandchild in ‘my beautiful home state of Tasmania’.
But Senator Milne won’t leave the political field entirely, promising to use her passion and experience to continue the fight for action on climate change.
Mr Brown said Senator Milne’s decision was a great surprise.
‘She’s a big loss for the Greens, there’s no doubt about that,’ he said.
Prime minister Tony Abbott paid tribute to the outgoing leader, acknowledging her distinguished record and commitment.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten also made note of Senator Milne’s career.
‘I haven’t always agreed with every policy she’s had … but I can certainly respect the conviction and the passion with which she has advanced her issues,’ he said.
Mr Bandt said he was happy to hand over the deputy leadership to turn his focus to the new leading force in his life: a baby.
‘Congrats Richard & new team!’ he tweeted.
‘V happy to hand over Deputy to focus on new baby (due in few wks!) & winning further Reps seats in Vic & NSW.’