Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s team in disarray as senior mininsters plead with Anthony Albanese not to resign
SIMON BENSON National Political Editor
The Daily Telegraph
March 25, 201312:00AM
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Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed 2Day FM crew Kyle Sandalands and Jackie O to Kirribilli House with kids from the Bear Cottage charity. Picture: Sam Mooy Source: The Daily Telegraph
Source: The Daily Telegraph
SENIOR Gillard ministers pleaded with Anthony Albanese not to resign over his support for Kevin Rudd, fearing the government would fall with the loss of his skills as its leader in parliament.
Key cabinet members and supporters of Prime Minister Julia Gillard last night confirmed they begged Rudd loyalist Mr Albanese to stay in his job – even as colleagues who had also backed the former PM in last week’s failed coup resigned en masse.
Mr Rudd was given a rockstar reception at a black tie charity event in Queensland, while Ms Gillard hosted an egg hunt with radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands – a man who has fended off accusations of misogyny – as the Easter Bunny.
Infrastructure Minister and leader of the house Mr Albanese was said to have privately expressed dismay to colleagues at the events of last Thursday, when Mr Rudd declined to stand against Ms Gillard.
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Mr Albanese was under pressure to follow the lead of fellow Rudd supporters Chris Bowen, Martin Ferguson and Kim Carr who all resigned from cabinet on Friday claiming it was the honourable thing to do, and the price they paid for backing Mr Rudd.
But fearing that Mr Albanese may also resign, several of the PM’s key cabinet backers called the Sydney MP to prevent what was considered a potentially fatal blow to the government.
“We could not afford to lose him,” one cabinet minister confirmed yesterday. “I spoke to him and said, ‘you can’t go’.”
Mr Albanese is regarded as instrumental to keeping the minority government in power as a key negotiator with the independents and maintaining stability in the lower house where Labor’s hold on power is on a constant knife-edge.
Yesterday he said he would not be resigning. “Why should I?” he said. “There is no doubt that these are big losses … and you asked me why I was staying on as a minister. I think it’s important we have the best team possible going forward.”
The Prime Minister has yet to give any clue as to how she will fill the vacuum left in the wake of the aborted spill, which also claimed the scalps of cabinet minister Simon Crean – sacked for sparking Thursday’s challenge – and parliamentary secretary Richard Marles, who resigned after publicly supporting Mr Rudd.
Sources last night said it was likely Gillard loyalists to be rewarded in the new ministry would include Environment Minister Tony Burke (NSW), Border Protection Minister Jason Clare (NSW) and Special Minister of State Gary Gray (WA).
Mr Gray – a former Woodside Petroleum executive – is likely to take the Resources and Energy portfolios from Mr Ferguson, while keeping his existing one.
And Jason Clare, who despite being cabinet secretary does not hold a vote in cabinet, is expected to fill one of the other cabinet vacancies.
It is expected that Ms Gillard may be content with reducing the size of the already bloated cabinet from 22 to 21 to minimise changes and resist recriminations being urged by some of her supporters.
Western Sydney MP and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury is also tipped to be rewarded for his loyalty and elevated further up the ministry.
Ms Gillard is expected to plug other holes with Victorian MP Michael Danby, an outspoken supporter of Israel, Queensland MP Shayne Nuemann and NSW MP Sharon Bird.
Fallout from the failed coup continued with senior MPs now rounding on members of the Gillard camp who have reportedly embarked on a new campaign to intimidate Mr Rudd and hound him out of parliament.
“So they want to lose the seat of Griffith too?” asked one MP. “We will be lucky to keep any seats in Queensland. If he pulled the pin we would have zero.
“They orchestrated a coup to remove him as leader in 2010 and now they want a coup to remove him from parliament. They need to pull their heads in.”