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Former premier Kevin Rudd quits Australian cabinet amid growing rift

Members of the Australian Labor party may vote on Julia Gillard’s leadership on Monday after former premier Kevin Rudd quit.

Former Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd smiles at a G20 summit in Mexico last weekend. Rudd has quit amid speculation he may launch a leadership heave.
Former Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd smiles at a G20 summit in Mexico last weekend. Rudd has quit amid speculation he may launch a leadership heave.
Image: Alexandre Meneghini/AP

MEMBERS OF AUSTRALIA’S ruling Labor party are set to vote on the leadership of Julia Gillard next Monday after her predecessor Kevin Rudd quit the country’s cabinet.

Rudd, who himself was party leader and Prime Minister until ousted by Gillard in June 2010, quit the cabinet amid suggestions that he would directly call a vote on whether Gillard should remain at the helm.

In a statement released from Washington DC, where Rudd had been on duty at a series of meetings, Rudd said he had no option but to leave the front bench after attacks from senior colleagues.

“It’s time for some plain speaking on this,” he said. “the truth is I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers.

“In recent days, minister [Simon] Crean and a number of other faceless men have publicly attacked my integrity and therefore my fitness to serve as a minister in government,” he said.

“When challenged today on these attacks, Prime Minister Gillard chose not to repudiate them. I can only reluctantly conclude that she therefore shares these views.”

Rudd did not immediately call a caucus vote on Gillard’s leadership, indicating that he does not necessarily believe he has the numbers to oust Gillard himself, but has also left open the possibility of quitting politics altogether.

If he does quit the parliament, the government would be forced into a by-election – which, if lost, would mean the loss of its single-seat majority in the Australian House of Representatives.

Gillard’s deputy PM Wayne Swan issued a statement condemning Rudd for seeking “tear down the 2010 [federal election] campaign”, and deliberately risked the prospect of the party falling into opposition. “Now he undermines the Government at every turn,” he said.

Gillard herself has been reluctant to comment, simply saying she was “disappointed” with Rudd’s decision and saying he had not contacted her to raise any concerns before his decision to resign.

Sky News Australia said Gillard was likely to call a leadership ballot at next week’s parliamentary Labor party meeting in order to put an end to the continuing tumult within the party.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott said the ongoing disputes within the cabinet confirmed that the government was not worthy of remaining in office.

Rudd was ousted by members of Labor in June 2010, with MPs fearing that the party would be unable to win the federal election of that August with him at the helm.

That election resulted in a hung parliament, with Gillard only retaining power thanks to the support of independent MPs.

Previously: Former Aussie PM denies rumours of leadership challenge against Gillard >

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Gavan Reilly

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