Wed, Feb 29, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Julia Gillard mulls Cabinet reshuffle

BANISHED:The Australian prime minister and Kevin Rudd emerged from a Labor Party meeting saying their fight was over, but Rudd was sent to the backbenches

AFP, Sydney

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday refused to rule out punishing ministers who failed to back her in a bitter leadership ballot with former Australian minister of foreign affairs Kevin Rudd as she mulls a Cabinet reshuffle.

Gillard retained office on Monday by crushing rival Rudd 71-31 in a secret vote of Labor parliamentarians after the former leader challenged her as head of the -country’s ruling party.

Rudd quit as foreign minister ahead of making his move on Gillard and that position now needs to be filled, as does that of assistant treasurer and right-wing powerbroker Mark Arbib, who has resigned.

While both the prime minister and Rudd — who has now been banished to the backbenches — have urged unity from the party after one of the most damaging and spiteful campaigns in recent history, Gillard said there would be changes.

“I made it clear yesterday that I’ll announce the reshuffle in my own time and I’m not going to be speculating on it before I announce it,” she told ABC radio. “I will judge my team on the way I’ve said I’m going to judge it — on merit and the capacity to take the fight up to the other side of politics.”

“That’s what will drive my decision,” Gillard said.

Five ministers backed Rudd in the leadership wrangle, including Minister of Resources Martin Ferguson, Minister of Immigration Chris Bowen and Minister of -Transport Anthony Albanese.

Minister of Housing Robert McClelland and Minister of Manufacturing Kim Carr also opposed Gillard.

Rudd has urged Gillard not to take retributions so as to help rebuild trust and unity within the splintered Labor Party, which badly lags the conservative opposition in the polls ahead of -elections due next year.

However, one of Gillard’s key backers, Cabinet Minister Simon Crean, whose personal attacks sparked Rudd’s resignation as foreign minister a week ago, said he expected big changes.

“She [Gillard] has already shown a new assertiveness — the reshuffle should be part of that,” said Crean, a former Labor leader who is seen among the contenders to replace Rudd as the country’s top diplomat.

Despite Rudd being more popular with voters than Gillard, he has pledged not to challenge her again and the prime minister said it was time to move on.

“Yesterday, what you saw was both me and Kevin Rudd come out of the Labor Party room and indicate that we would work as a united Labor team to deliver our agenda and our vision of the country’s future,” she said.

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