Australia PM emphasises loyalty with reshuffle
Changes to Julia Gillard’s cabinet follow bungled leadership challenge
Australian prime minister Julia Gillard (C) walks with her supporters. She emphasised loyalty over experience when she named her new cabinet. Photogrph: Andrew Taylor/Reuters
It followed a bungled leadership challenge that laid bare government turmoil damaging her party’s image months before an election.
Five ministers resigned or were sacked from their executive jobs for promoting a challenge by Ms Gillard’s predecessor Kevin Rudd that failed when he decided against running on the ballot within the ruling Labour Party.
Ms Gillard yesterday called the leadership mess “appalling”.
“It was an unseemly display. Today as a government we can be united and with a sense of purpose,” she said.
Most of the politicians she promoted were known loyalists in the long-standing rivalry between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd.
The resources and energy ministry, crucial to Australia’s mining-oriented economy, was given to special minister of state Gary Gray, a former gas company executive.
The position had been filled by Mr Rudd supporter Martin Ferguson since the Labour government was first elected under Mr Rudd’s leadership in 2007.
Transport minister Anthony Albanese stayed, even though he had been tipped to be deputy prime minister if Mr Rudd regained the leadership.
Reports have said ministers urged him not to resign because he was too important to the government, and Ms Gillard promoted him by giving him the portfolios of regional development and local government.
Those ministries had been held by Simon Crean, who Ms Gillard sacked for calling for a leadership ballot.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who has denied media reports that he had been prepared to back a Rudd challenge, remained in his post.
Dumping him would have been a high-profile embarrassment for Australia since he is due to meet US vice-president Joe Biden at the White House later today.
The Australian government’s internal turmoil played out in the US a year ago when Mr Rudd quit as foreign minister while in Washington to challenge Ms Gillard in a leadership showdown. He was trounced in that ballot by 91 votes to 31.
After last week’s fiasco, Mr Rudd said he would not seek the Labour Party leadership again.
Party leadership ballots are often seen as a solution to poor public polling, which point to a Labour Party defeat at the elections on September 14.
The new Cabinet is Australia’s sixth in three years, but Ms Gillard expects the reshuffle will be the last before the elections.