Gillard Calls for Australian Labor Party Leadership Vote

St. Joseph News-Press, February 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Gillard Calls for Australian Labor Party Leadership Vote


(CNN) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attempted Thursday to thwart a perceived challenge to her leadership of the Labor Party from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by announcing that she will put the matter to a vote of Labor members of Parliament on Monday morning.

"For far too long, we have been squabbling within the Labor Party, which has obscured the government's achievements and what we are doing to build a stronger and fairer Australia," she told reporters in Adelaide. "In recent days, I believe that this has moved to a distraction from governing itself. That's not good enough. Australians are rightly sick of this, and they want it brought to an end."

If she loses, she said, "then I will go to the back bench and I will renounce any further ambition for the Labor leadership." She called on Rudd to make a comparable commitment.

Her announcement ends months of speculation about a challenge to her leadership by Rudd, whom she replaced as prime minister in 2010. "I believe it is in the interests of the Labor Party that it be determined once and for all," she said.

Gillard's announcement appeared to have been sparked by Rudd's resignation on Wednesday, while visiting Washington, as Gillard's foreign minister. Before departing to return to Australia, he said, "I do not believe that Prime Minister Gillard can lead the Australian Labor Party to success in the next election."

Gillard rejected that assertion. "I believe I can lead Labor to that victory, provided that the Labor Party unites and we get on to the job."

Australia's next election has to be held by the end of November 2013.

And Gillard said Rudd's resignation means one thing: "It is now absolutely evident that Kevin Rudd is intending to return to Australia to ask me for a leadership ballot. I am not prepared for the nation to go through many days of drift before there is a clear point where this is going to be resolved."

The Australian media had been abuzz in recent days with reports that Rudd was considering contesting Gillard's leadership of the governing party.

Observers had predicted a showdown could take place next week when Parliament resumes. But Rudd's announcement in Washington in the middle of the night caught people by surprise.

"We thought he was tucked up in bed," said Angela Cox, a reporter for the Australian Channel 7 in the United States. "He called this late press conference, so we knew something must've been up. But I have to say most of us were pretty shocked when he actually said he was resigning as foreign minister. …

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