Aussie foreign minister resigns over PM
23 February 2012, 09:42
Canberra - Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd resigned on Wednesday,
saying he could no longer work with Prime Minister Julia Gillard,
igniting a new and bitter leadership crisis for the struggling minority
Gillard's government has sunk in popularity as
Gillard and Rudd, whom she ousted in 2010, have waged a personal feud
that has split their Labour Party and alienated voters.
insiders said that while Rudd was more popular with voters, Gillard had
stronger support within the party and would easily win a leadership
vote, which could come as early as next week.
They differ little
on policy, but the battle - described by Rudd as a "soap opera" -
threatens to trigger an early election and a defeat for Labour's
economic reform agenda, including major mining and climate change
Senior ministers had in the past week urged Gillard
to sack Rudd due to the leadership speculation and increasing animosity
between the two camps.
simple truth is I cannot continue to serve as foreign minister if I do
not have Prime Minister Gillard's support," Rudd told a news conference in Washington. "The only honourable course of action is for me to resign."
supporters believe only he can stem haemorrhaging voter support to
opposition leader Tony Abbott and his conservative coalition, which
holds a strong lead in opinion polls.
But a move back to Rudd risks losing the backing of independents who give the minority Labour government a one-seat majority.
am disappointed that the concerns Mr Rudd has publicly expressed this
evening were never personally raised with me, nor did he contact me to
discuss his resignation prior to his decision," Gillard said in a brief
Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan was
more critical, issuing a scathing attack on Rudd, accusing him of
disloyalty and of undermining the government.
"The party has
given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them
with his dysfunctional decision-making and his deeply demeaning attitude
towards other people, including our caucus colleagues," Swan said.
A Rudd government
said a change of leader would cause upheaval in the caucus, including
likely changes in key positions such as treasurer and defence minister,
but have little impact on policy or the outcome of the election.
Rudd were to wrest the leadership, I think we'd be headed certainly to a
2012 election," Australian National University Political analyst Norman
"A Rudd government would look very different from a Gillard government, and would presumably be fairly short lived."
who will return at least temporarily to the backbenches after quitting
cabinet, told the news conference he would return to Australia this week
before deciding his future.
"There is one overriding question
for my caucus colleagues and that is who is best placed to defeat Tony
Abbott at the next election," said Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former
Opposition to a 40% tax on mining profits introduced by Rudd contributed to his demise as prime minister.
overthrew him in a party room coup and immediately cut the tax rate to
30% while excluding all but the country's most profitable iron ore and
Abbott has said that if he wins the next election,
he will dump both the planned mining tax and plans to introduce a carbon
price to combat climate change, both due to come into force on July 1.
The instability was damaging the country and the government was unworthy of staying in power, he said on Wednesday.
Rudd has confirmed two things - that the faceless men are running the
Labour Party and that the instability at the top of this government is
damaging our country," Abbott said in a statement.
say he remains more popular with voters and would help revive party
support ahead of the next election, due in late 2013.
he is not as well liked within the Labour Party and he alienated may
colleagues with his imperious style when he was prime minister.
overwhelming support within the parliamentary party is for the prime
minister, is for the government. It is overwhelming, it always has
been," Environment Minister Tony Burke told Australian television.
of leadership instability has undermined Labour's chances of holding
power in the state of Queensland at a March 24 poll - the resource-rich
state is also crucial for the national government's re-election.
think the dislike of the current government is quite deep. It goes
beyond the leaders, which is part of their problem," said John Stirton
from pollster AC Nielsen.
"They would get a short-term boost from Rudd, but I don't think it is going to solve their problems."
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