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Australian Current Affairs

Five ministers, three whips, parliamentary secretaries resign; Australian government in turmoil


Anthony Albanese says there’s “no reason” for him to resign in the wake of Labor’s abortive leadership coup, as he admitted the departures of fellow Rudd backers from the ministry were “big losses”.

The cabinet minister denied he played any role in corralling support for Kevin Rudd against Julia Gillard ahead of a Labor caucus meeting last week and said he still enjoyed her confidence in his job as Transport Minister and Leader of the House.

Mr Albanese has been branded a “gutless wonder” by fellow Labor MP Laurie Ferguson for not joining fellow Rudd supporters Chris Bowen, Martin Ferguson and Kim Carr in quitting the ministry.

But he told Sky News‘ Australian Agenda the events leading up to Simon Crean‘s “spontaneous combustion” – the demand that Ms Gillard call a leadership spill – had nothing to do with him.

“There is no reason why I should (resign),” Mr Albanese said.

“I continue to enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister,” he said.

“I would never support a spill against a sitting prime minister, that was my view, that is still my view.”

Mr Albanese denied he had been assessing the numbers and sounding out ministers like Mark Butler in the weeks before last Thursday’s leadership showdown, which ended when Mr Rudd declined to contest a caucus ballot. The former prime minister later ruled out a return to the leadership at any time.

“Let’s be very clear. I had two discussions with Kevin Rudd on Thursday. One in the morning when I went to him when rumours were swirling around parliament house,” Mr Albanese said.

“I asked him `has your position changed’? He said `no, it hasn’t’. I went about my business as Leader of the House. Then that afternoon I had another discussion with him and he confirmed he would do what he always said, that he would not challenge.”

Mr Albanese also denied making any deal with Mr Rudd that would install him as deputy prime minister with Chris Bowen as treasurer.

“I never asked for support and I also indicated very clearly, including to Wayne Swan, that Wayne Swan had my support as deputy… I had a discussion with him last week,” he said.

“There was no vacancy. This is all an academic exercise based upon hypotheticals, the fact is the conditions were not there. I was of the view the Prime Minister would remain in her position.”

Mr Albanese offered his resignation after Mr Rudd’s failed challenge in February last year.

But he did not do so this time because “there was no ballot”.

Ms Gillard said yesterday Mr Albanese was “doing a good job, a fantastic job” as infrastructure minister and Leader of the House.

Ms Gillard is now preparing to reshuffle her ministry following the departures of Mr Bowen, Mr Ferguson, Senator Carr and Mr Crean, who was sacked by Ms Gillard after calling for the leadership spill.

As well as the loss of four experienced ministers, junior minister Richard Marles and three whips also resigned because of their support for Mr Rudd.

“There is no doubt that these are big losses… and you asked me why I was staying on as a minister,” Mr Albanese said. “I think it’s important we have the best team possible going forward.

“There’s no doubt also that there are quality people who will be a renewal of the ranks.”

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Labor must have “zero tolerance for internal criticism” ahead of the September election, and backed Mr Albanese’s refusal to resign.

“The people who have to think about their positions are those people who say and do things that are inconsistent with their positions on the executive,” he told Channel Ten’s Meet the Press.

“While we are disappointed we have lost some colleagues, Chris Bowen for example, these people are not indispensable, there are key people who will take their places.”

Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne said Mr Albanese’s position as a senior minister was “untenable”.

“You can’t have Anthony Albanese leading the House for Julia Gillard in whom he hasn’t expressed confidence, whom he wanted to replace her deputy prime minister and Treasurer with himself,” Mr Pyne told ABC television.

Mr Pyne said he did not believe Mr Rudd’s statement that he would never return as Labor’s leader.

“I’m still getting text messages from supporters of his in the caucus telling me that they plan to remove Julia Gillard in 71 days,” he said.

“So the civil war continues and the losers from this are the Australian people.”

Mr Albanese said the chances of Mr Rudd returning to the leadership were “zero” and refused to be drawn on Laurie Ferguson’s “gutless wonder” gibe.

“Laurie Ferguson has a long history of not saying constructive things about my contribution,” he said.

“I’ll let my contribution stand versus his contribution and I don’t intend to engage in an argument with him.”

The challenge without a challenger was, however, a chance to move forward.

“Of course people would be disappointed with the events of this week, there is no point gilding the lily on that,” he said.

“We need to make sure we advance our position.”

Mr Albanese said it was clear the events of the past week had been hugely distracting and Labor supporters were justified in being disappointed.

His comments came as a Galaxy poll in News Ltd newspapers found 71 per cent of respondents believed the office of the prime minister had been damaged by the infighting and aborted coup against 21 per who said it had not.

Most felt Labor had made the wrong decision rejecting Mr Rudd as leader, with 53 per cent of the 1005 people surveyed backing the former prime minister against 32 per cent who preferred Ms Gillard.

Sixty per cent believed Ms Gillard was now a “lame duck” leader.

The poll also showed Labor trailing 32 per cent to 47 per cent in the primary vote.

In the two-party preferred stakes, 55 per cent of respondents preferred the coalition to Labor’s 45 per cent.

Source: The Australian – Anthony Albanese won’t quit cabinet and add to ‘big losses’ in ministry following abortive coup
 

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Five ministers, three whips, parliamentary secretaries resign; Australian government in turmoil

  1. Politics is such a lofty profession. Isn’t it?

    Posted by --Rick | March 25, 2013, 06:53
  2. Clearly, there must be a monarch. These elections are costing too much & getting so little back for the money. I put forward, Her Serene Highness, The Princess Melita Bonaparte. She’s not politically connected to anyone, and would be utterly useless in a sincere sort of way. Bound to be an improvement from the sounds of things. You would adore her!

    Posted by thomasoutt | March 26, 2013, 13:51

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