Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced a string of ministerial resignations yesterday in the wake of a botched leadership coup against her, forcing a reshuffle of her Labor government just months from potentially disastrous elections.
Australian Minister of Resources Martin Ferguson said he would step down, joining departing Cabinet colleagues Simon Crean and Chris Bowen, as well as junior minister Kim Carr. All had backed Gillard’s chief rival, Mandarin-speaking former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, as the party’s best hope to reverse polls pointing to a thrashing by conservative opponents at the Sept. 14 elections.
“I have a view it’s the only honorable thing to do. I would have voted for Kevin Rudd yesterday and Simon Crean, to try and give this party a fresh start,” an emotional Ferguson told reporters at parliament in Canberra.
The political unrest in the country threatens to cloud decisionmaking with elections just six months away and as the minority government readies to take leadership of the G20, and after Canberra became a rotating UN Security Council member.
Gillard stamped her authority on Labor by being re-elected unopposed, after Rudd conceded he did not have the numbers to topple her after a tumultuous day of backroom plotting that is to do even more damage to the government’s fading popularity.
Treasurer Wayne Swan, widely derided by voters despite having steered the G20 member through the last financial downturn with 5.4 percent unemployment and a 21st year of unbroken economic growth, was re-elected as Gillard’s deputy.
Crean was sacked immediately by Gillard on Thursday for backing Rudd, in what newspapers called a political “suicide bombing” that appeared to have delivered no gains for Labor except the near-certainty of a thumping election defeat.
Rudd, ousted by Gillard in 2010 amid another round of plummeting polls, said yesterday he would never again run for the leadership — unless it was already vacant.
“I don’t think it’s worth raking over the coals. What’s done is done and let’s get on with the future,” Rudd said. “It’s really important that we bind together and that’s what the Australian people expect of us.”
Bowen, one of Rudd’s key backers and a former immigration minister, said he would also quit, stripping Gillard’s top ranks of another of its most effective political talents.
Ferguson, in particular, had been an influential advocate for the country’s mining industry and helped broker a 2010 deal with major resource companies, including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, to abandon a damaging campaign against a mining profits tax introduced by Labor and later watered down.
Gillard, the plain-speaking daughter of Welsh migrants, has consistently failed to arrest a slump in opinion polls, which predict a major defeat in September, with Labor losing about 20 seats in the 150-seat parliament.
However, she attempted to draw a line under the divisions and concerns about her leadership, extending a press conference at a road construction site north of Sydney yesterday to face down questions from journalists about the government’s stability.
“This issue is over and done with. This issue has been resolved for all time, and I think Kevin’s [Rudd’s] statement reflects that,” she said.
Gillard said she would make changes to her ministry in coming days, but faced a headache over who to appoint after the departure of some her most effective talents.
“I’m someone who is made of I think pretty strong stuff and I think that’s been on display. Politics is not an easy business,” she said.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are