Australian PM names new FM, axes rival's supporter

AP News
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Posted: Mar 02, 2012 7:22 AM
Australian PM names new FM, axes rival's supporter

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard named a retired politician her foreign minister Friday in place of Kevin Rudd, who tried to oust her during a chaotic, short-lived rebellion in the ruling Labor Party.

Rudd's resignation as foreign minister last week required Gillard to reshuffle her Cabinet. In the process, she demoted Emergency Management Minister Robert McClelland, who publicly backed Rudd's effort to remove her as prime minister.

The appointment of Bob Carr, former premier of New South Wales state, as Rudd's replacement was a surprise. He retired from politics in 2005 and said he initially wrestled with whether to return to public service.

"But in the end, when the distinctive voice of the prime minister rouses you from your slumber and says, 'Will you be foreign minister of Australia?' I couldn't have found it in me to have said no," Carr said.

Many political observers had expected that Defense Minister Stephen Smith, who held the foreign ministry post before Rudd, would be given the coveted job. Smith said he was happy to continue in his defense role.

"There are no entitlements in public life," he said. "I don't have any entitlement to be disappointed."

After quitting, Rudd attempted to oust Gillard in vote of Labor Party lawmakers on Monday. Gillard, who deposed Rudd as prime minister two years ago in an internal party coup, easily defeated him and has been trying since to reunite her fractured party and Cabinet.

At a news conference Friday in the capital, Canberra, Gillard insisted the drama-riddled power challenge did not factor in the Cabinet reshuffling.

"The decisions I've made about my team are about merit, about the strongest possible team," she said.

But McClelland later said Gillard told him she was ousting him in part because he had "gone further" with his advocacy for Rudd than others.

"I had every expectation that this could be the outcome. Indeed, as of Monday, I started packing my office," McClelland told reporters in Sydney. "I went into my support for Kevin Rudd on a matter of principle, knowing full well that this could be the consequence."

Gillard is lagging in opinion polls, and Rudd and his supporters believe their center-left party will get trounced by the conservative opposition if she leads the party into elections scheduled for next year. Many other Labor lawmakers, however, were unhappy with Rudd's performance as prime minister before his 2010 ouster and continue to support Gillard.