Mon, May 28, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Gillard shrugs off talk of pre-election leadership rivalry

AFP, SYDNEY

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday vowed to take the government to the next election, despite reports a key Labor figure is canvassing support for a return of former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

The prime minister and then-foreign minister Rudd faced off against each other in a party room vote in February, with the nation’s first woman prime minister crushing her former boss 71 to 31 and Rudd going to the backbench.

However, reports yesterday said government whip Joel Fitzgibbon was making the case for a new Rudd challenge, prompting Gillard to respond that she was the best person to lead the party to next year’s election.

HOLDING ON

“I’ll be happily leading Labor to the next election,” she told reporters.

Gillard said she was satisfied with a comment Fitzgibbon made on Twitter yesterday, which read: “I thank my colleagues for the publicity, but no one does more to support the PM and the Government than me!”

“I think his words speak for themselves,” Gillard said.

OLD QUESTION

The question of leadership has dogged Gillard since she swept to power in a party room vote in mid-2010 in which she effectively deposed Rudd overnight, shocking a public who had voted him in less than three years earlier.

The February party room ballot came as the government languished at record lows in opinion polls and after weeks of intense speculation that Rudd was the only option if the party was to dodge defeat at the next election.

After the vote Labor vowed unity, but the poor polling of Gillard saw staunch Rudd supporter backbencher Doug Cameron warn that a second challenge could occur within months unless her standing with voters improved.

The latest speculation was prompted by reports that Fitzgibbon had switched sides to the Rudd camp.

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