Aussie leadership putsch talk mounts

AFP-JIJI

A key Australian government figure Wednesday confirmed pre-election unrest within the Labor Party over Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership, but said no ballot against her is likely just yet.

Speculation intensified that Gillard could be toppled by her party after a report claimed former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was only five votes away from overthrowing her. The Australian Financial Review said Gillard was lagging so badly in opinion polls that even her more strident supporters doubt she can win the Sept. 14 national election.

But chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon insisted that while Labor politicians are worried about their future, there has been no canvassing of support for Rudd and denied that vote-counting was going on.

“It would be silly to tell people there is nothing going on,” Fitzgibbon told Fairfax Media. “People are just speculating. We’re six months out from an election, obviously we’re struggling in the opinion polls. It’s causing unrest in the party room, particularly amongst MPs (members of Parliament) . . . about their future in this place.”