Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday named former New South Wales state premier Bob Carr as Australian minister for foreign affairs as she asserted her authority following a leadership challenge.
Carr will become the nation’s top diplomat after former foreign minister Kevin Rudd resigned last week in order to take on Gillard and Senator Mark Arbib quit in the wake of Labor Party infighting.
“I have put together a team that will best equip my government to pursue our priorities for the nation,” Gillard told reporters about the forced reshuffle.
“Bob Carr will join the Senate and will take on the role of minister for foreign affairs,” she said.
Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith, who had been -considered the frontrunner for Rudd’s old job, said the ministry make-up was a matter for Gillard and he was happy to continue to serve in his current position.
The move follows a period of unprecedented rancor within Labor, with ministers divided between the two candidates for the party leadership.
Several ministers who backed Rudd — including Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen and Australian Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson — kept their jobs, but Australian Minister for -Emergency Management Robert McClelland was dumped.
Carr said he admired Rudd, who lost the leadership ballot 71 to 31 and returned to the backbenches, and would be seeking his advice on the role which sees him return to politics after a six-year break.
“In the end when the distinctive voice of Prime Minister Gillard rouses you from your slumber and says will you be foreign minister of Australia, I could not have found it in me to have said no,” he said.
“I was offered the opportunity to sign on for more public service and I couldn’t say no,” he added.
A former journalist, Carr was considered one of Australia’s most influential politicians when he stepped down in 2005 after a decade as leader of New South Wales, which includes Sydney and is the country’s most populous state.
He pulled the New South Wales Labor Party out of the doldrums to be elected state premier in 1995 and is set to enter federal politics as Labor trails the conservative opposition in opinion polls.
Rudd described Carr, 64, as an “excellent choice” for foreign minister.
“I have known Bob for 20 years and regard him as a good friend,” Rudd said in a statement. “Throughout that time he has demonstrated a strong continuing interest in international affairs. He has also been actively engaged with the US across that period and will be well regarded in Washington.”
In other changes, Brendan O’Connor becomes minister for small business, and for housing and homelessness, Kate Lundy takes Arbib’s spot as minister for sport and David Bradbury becomes assistant treasurer.