Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd resigns

 

Kevin Rudd: "I am sad that it has come to this"

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Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has resigned amid widespread reports of a leadership tussle between him and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

He made the announcement at a press conference in Washington DC, where he had earlier met US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Ms Gillard ousted Mr Rudd as PM in June 2010. There has been speculation he plans to challenge her for the top job.

Ms Gillard said Mr Rudd did not inform her he intended to resign.

Amid the leadership wrangling she had faced calls from backbenchers to sack Mr Rudd - who said her failure to defend him from these attacks had helped him come to a decision.

KEVIN RUDD

  • Member of the Australian Labor Party, first elected to parliament in 1998
  • Became leader of the Labor party in 2006
  • Served as 26th prime minister of Australia from 2007-2010
  • Ousted by deputy Julia Gillard on 24 June 2010
  • Recalled to cabinet as foreign minister 14 Sept 2010
  • Resigned as foreign minister on 21 February 2012

"The simple truth is that I cannot continue to serve as foreign minister if I don't have Prime Minister Gillard's support," he said late on Tuesday night at the press conference in the US, which was broadcast live in Australia.

"I therefore believe the only honourable course of action is for me to resign."

He did not say if he would be challenging Ms Gillard for the leadership, but confirmed that he would leave the US the next day, arriving home in Brisbane on Friday morning.

He said he would not be involved in a "stealth attack on a sitting prime minister".

"We all know that what happened then was wrong and it must never happen again," he said, referring to how he was ousted.

Mr Rudd said he would consult his family and community before making an announcement about his future. He would do so before parliament returned next week, he said.

Analysis

The speculation about Kevin Rudd's future has been the political story of Australia's summer and about as stormy. The "will-he-or-won't-he-go" brigade have been filling radio and television studios with their theories for months.

There is no one reason why he is going, despite his claim that it is all about "faceless" government ministers attacking his integrity. There do not appear to be any major policy differences between himself and PM Julia Gillard.

That is why many believe this is about unfinished business. It is most likely he still feels bitter at being elbowed out of the PM's job by Ms Gillard in June 2010.

But will that mean he will try to get his old job back by mounting a challenge? No one really knows. If he goes for it, does he have the numbers and if he wins what will that mean for party unity? If he loses, what then?

Either way, it is a risky strategy for the now-former foreign minister known on Twitter as K Rudd, especially with an election due in 2013 and the opposition very much in front.

Ms Gillard said Mr Rudd has not been in touch before his press conference.

"I am disappointed that the concerns Mr Rudd has publicly expressed this evening were never personally raised with me, nor did he contact me to discuss his resignation prior to his decision," she said in a statement.

She said that she would call a press conference on Thursday to "make a further statement".

Poll slide

In recent days speculation had been mounting that Mr Rudd's supporters were planning a leadership challenge.

The ruling Labor Party government is struggling to retain voter support and Ms Gillard has been slipping in popularity polls. She leads a minority government which relies on independents for its wafer-thin majority.

She was grilled by Australian media last week over allegations that her staff worked on a "victory speech" two weeks before she ousted Mr Rudd.

She refused to say for certain if she knew the speech was being prepared in advance, but stressed that she did not commission it.

After the interview, polls published in The Australian newspaper showed that she had lost ground to opposition leader Tony Abbott. While support for him rose three points to 40%, hers dropped to 37%.

At the press conference, Mr Rudd appeared to cast doubt on Ms Gillard's ability to defeat opposition leader Tony Abbott in the next election, due in 2013, asking colleagues who was best placed to lead the party to victory.

"Mr Abbott, I believe, does not have the temperament or the experience to ever be elected to hold the high office of prime minister of Australia,'' he said.

"But at present, and for a long time now, he has been on track just to do that."

Mr Abbott, for his part, said the ''instability'' was ''damaging Australia'' and the government showing itself ''unworthy to continue in office''.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 76.

    Here in Queensland, insiders have been aware for a long time that Mr Rudd was an ego driven, publicity hound who lacked the skills to lead in practice. His fall was inevitable and the people were going to throw him out big time. The hung parliament meant that he couldn't be sacked in practice until his ego did it himself in what is likely to be a typically personally destructive way.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 55.

    The clash of the Australian titans! Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have extremely strong personalities not prepared to budge an inch. So one should have expected fireworks from the word 'go''! It is extremely baffling that Rudd tendered his resignation when he was on a diplomatic mission abroad.This speaks volumes as it highlights the bitter rivalry, a riveting battle ahead! It could be bruising!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 41.

    The best way forward for the Australian Labor Party is for a completely neutral person to get the top job. Re-electing Ms Gillard at Caucus will not help and bringing back Mr Rudd will do no good either. Julia Gillard should promptly also resign for the interest of the nation and party to allow room for a neutral person, else Labor will record the worst polling numbers from next week and always.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 39.

    Rudd is head and shoulders above Gillard in ability, vision, and integrity. For instance, Gillard had her acceptance speech sorted 2 weeks before ousting Rudd - we all remember her pretended surprise and reluctance at that! And why is she letting Cabinet cronies brief against Rudd? Keeping Gillard will ensure an LNP victory in QLD and an Abbott win later. I don't know anyone who wants that!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    Good point rachaelmmelb. When Gillard came into power the BBC headline read something like "Australia gets first elected female PM", when there were no elections! I lived in Oz for the last 3 years and it's a shame for Oz Rudd has gone cos he was a good man with a level head and good ideas. Gillard has been out of her depth. Rudd stopped Oz going into recession when the rest of the world did.

 

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