Gillard prepares for frontbench shake-up


Gillard prepares for frontbench shake-up

ABCUpdated March 23, 2013, 9:59 am



Prime Minister Julia Gillard is working on drastic changes to her frontbench after losing four experienced ministers in the wake of a botched attempt to unseat her.

Chris Bowen, Martin Ferguson and Kim Carr , and will join Simon Crean on the backbench.

Federal Transport Minister and Leader of the House Anthony Albanese is also under pressure to consider his future.

The resignations leave Ms Gillard with a big hole to fill, including three vacancies at cabinet level – and all just six months before the election.

Mr Rudd , and is asking the Prime Minister to spare the lives of those who backed him.

“It’s important to bring people in the tent,” he said.

“Ultimately, leaders and prime ministers will make these calls, but I think it’s really important that we bind up the wounds.”

But mercy does not seem to be on offer from the Prime Minister.

“A number of people clearly considering their position. And I too will consider ministerial arrangements,” she said.

The Prime Minister is already coming under pressure over who to install where.

One resources lobby group is urging Ms Gillard to install a West Australian into the Resources portfolio.

Mr Ferguson’s resignation brought down the curtain on 17 years on Labor’s frontbench after a long career in the union movement.

Reg Howard-Smith from the Chamber of Minerals and Energy says with WA accounting for more than half the country’s resources sector, there are some obvious choices to replace him.

“I think that it would ideal if under these circumstances that you did have a West Australian becoming the resources minister,” he said.

Mr Howard-Smith says Defence Minister Stephen Smith, or the Special Minister of State Gary Gray, a former Woodside executive, both have a good understanding of the sector.

Senior Labor ministers are to sell the party’s message.

“It has been awful, no other way of describing it, it has been awful,” Environment Minister Tony Burke told Lateline.

“All four are good people, very good people and all four have made their own decisions and they’ve given their reasons.”

Many party figures agree with former New South Wales minister John Della Bosca who says the resignations, while difficult, are the best thing for Labor.

“Removing the opportunity for the media to say, ‘but you’re here as the parliamentary secretary for XYZ, or the minister for ABC, or as the chief government whip, and you’re not supporting the Prime Minister because only two days ago you were supporting Kevin Rudd in a ballot’,” he said.

“That’s gone now. There’s no possibility of that. So I think they’re doing the right thing. The Government is settling down.”

Special Minister of State Gary Gray told AM that although the leadership fiasco has been damaging for Labor, it can still win the federal election.

“I think it was extremely damaging for the Parliament, and I think it was damaging for the party,” he said.

“I think it’s an experience that no-one would ever want to live twice.

“I think if the election were held this Saturday, we wouldn’t [win].

“[But] the election in September is some time away.”

But some supporters say uniting a divided party will be extremely difficult this close to an election.
Analysts are predicting more leadership troubles if the party slips further in the polls.

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