Katy Gallagher, enjoying some tea in Chifley, will return to the political scene as a senator next month.

Katy Gallagher, enjoying some tea in Chifley, will return to the political scene as a senator next month. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Katy Gallagher's longest holiday in 13 years is almost at an end, but the former ACT chief minister is in no rush to get to the front bench when she joins the Senate next month. 

Since her resignation from the ACT's highest office took effect on December 10, the city's most popular politician has watched movies she chose, read for pleasure, texted less and done her best to switch off from the daily coverage of politics. 

"I thought it would be a lot harder to withdraw," Ms Gallagher said. 

Katy Gallagher, enjoying some tea in Chifley, will return to the political scene as a senator next month.

Katy Gallagher, enjoying some tea in Chifley, will return to the political scene as a senator next month. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"It gives you time to clear your brain – my brain is quiet like it hasn't been for over a decade.

"It also shows, and I've always thought this, that it was the right decision on a number of different levels."

The seven-day-a-week stress of the top job has gone but the popularity – Gallagher won the most number of first preference votes at the 2012 election – has not changed, based on the reaction of those having a morning catch-up at eclectic Chifley cafe A Bite to Eat, A Drink As Well on Friday.

A group of elderly residents wished her the best, while a young woman approached at one point with a note expressing interest in running as a Labor candidate for the assembly next year.

Elected herself to the assembly as a 31-year-old and rising within a year to the ministry, Ms Gallagher was Bill Shorten's preferred pick as Senate replacement for the outgoing Kate Lundy.

Ms Gallagher said she knew of Senator Lundy's decision "a couple of days" before the public announcement on November 26, but it was not until December 4 – encouraged by Mr Shorten, ALP's Senate leader Penny Wong and mentor Jon Stanhope among others – that she called to tell the opposition leader yes. 

"It was one of those adrenalin moments," she said. 

The decision to shift political scenes – to move from head of government to the opposition backbench – was also given some thought by Ms Gallagher's two youngest children, Charlie, 9, and Evie, 7. 

Evie was "cross" when she was told about the resignation.

"It turns out she'd been signing autographs, she said 'I can't sign autographs at school any more'," Ms Gallagher said.  

Her "bookish" son had a more positive take. "He's really pleased because as it turns out Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars is a senator – so I'm up there with Jar Jar Binks."

The time had come to engage in the national debates she said she had "conspicuously avoided", motivated by what she saw as a move away from fairness by the federal government. 

"i just see at the moment there's a big step away from that Australian concept of fairness, whether it be health, education, even refugee policy," she said. 

"I think I contributed all I could as a local MLA."

The widely perceived lack of fairness from the Commonwealth in failing to stump up a dollar for the Mr Fluffy clean-up is something that still grates with the former chief. 

Ms Gallagher feels the federal government could have stumped up the loan's interest bill, at least.

"It was derisory, and the Commonwealth Bank gave more than the Commonwealth government," she said.

"It irks me, and it's not something I'm going to let go."

While not immune from criticism for certain pressure points in the health system during her eight years as minister, Ms Gallagher said health policy, open and e-government and integrity issues were areas where she wanted to be of use – but that did not mean she was chasing a spot on the Labor frontbench.

"I said to Bill when I made the decision and rang him that I don't come with any demands," she said. 

"I think it will be good for me professionally to not have a portfolio, and to learn the ropes, learn other skills."

But the 44-year-old said she "wouldn't say no" if offered any portfolio.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said on Friday there were no plans to change the Labor shadow ministry.

He pointed to the opposition's leader comment in December of no guarantees the "distinguished candidate" would rise to the front bench. 

Later on Friday Ms Gallagher dined with Dame Quentin Bryce at the Hyatt Hotel, someone, together with Julia Gillard, she has remained in regular contact with after the unique two-year period from mid-2011 when women held the roles of chief minister, prime minister and governor-general simultaneously. 

It would require a change of government and the approval of caucus, but it would surprise no-one if Katy Gallagher is sworn in as a federal minister before the term of Dame Quentin's successor, Sir Peter Cosgrove, is up.