Australia’s Ex-Premier Quits Government in Battle to Regain Power

By Richard Porritt

22 Feb 2012

Australia’s former prime minister Kevin Rudd quit the government today in an apparent grab for power.

Mr Rudd was ousted as Labour leader in 2010, making way for current premier Julia Gillard, when MPs became concerned about his poll ratings and feared losing the election.

He was appointed foreign minister but today, during a visit to Washington, he resigned saying he could not continue without the support of the prime minister.

In the past week party sources have been whispering about a plot to topple Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd has not forgiven her for the internal coup which forced him aside.

His resignation sparked an outbreak of nerves among the party because if he were to stand down as an MP a by-election would be fought and their one-seat majority would be threatened.

Mr Rudd said: “I can only serve as foreign minister if I have the confidence of prime minister Gillard and her senior ministers. I therefore believe the only honourable thing, and the only honourable course of action, is for me to resign.

“The truth is the Australian people regard this whole affair as little better than a soap opera and they are right,” he said. “And under current circumstances, I won’t be part of it.”

He added that he would not be involved in a “stealth” coup like the one that toppled him.

Analysts claim his move is designed to apply pressure on Ms Gillard to step down rather than force her out. She maintains she has the support of a majority of her Labour colleagues.

Many Australians were angry when the government dumped Mr Rudd, who swept into office in the general election of 2007. In Australia, the prime minister is chosen by a majority in the House of Representatives.

In 2010, Labour MPs moved against Mr Rudd because opinion polls suggested they were unlikely to win elections that year under his leadership.

Labour, under Ms Gillard, scraped through the elections to form the first minority government in Australia since the Second World War. Polls now suggest that Labour is heading for a devastating defeat.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott said Mr Rudd’s resignation confirmed that the government was unworthy to continue in office.

He added that only his coalition could provide the strong and stable government to address the issues facing the country.

There is an election due next year.

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