SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard set about rebuilding her Labor party’s tainted image Friday following a botched leadership coup, as a slew of ministers who support her archrival, Kevin Rudd, resigned.
Gillard is facing an uphill battle as she attempts to claw back credibility following an internal political drama that dealt a huge blow to her already slim prospects heading into a September national election.
Australia’s first female leader called a shock vote for the party leadership Thursday after senior minister Simon Crean urged a ballot to end rampant speculation he said was “killing” the party.
She was re-elected unopposed after former Labor leader Rudd, who Gillard ruthlessly ousted in 2010, realized he did not have the numbers required and opted out just minutes before the vote was held. Rudd on Friday ruled out the prospect of ever being Labor leader again and said Gillard “has my 100 percent support.”
“I don’t think it’s worth raking over the coals. What’s done is done. Let’s look to the future,” he said, confirming he was advised his chances were “zero.”
Eight politicians who sided with him were either sacked or resigned, with Gillard facing a tricky Cabinet reshuffle just six months out from the Sept. 14 poll.
The highest-profile casualties, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen and Human Services Minister Kim Carr, fell on their swords Friday. Crean was fired Thursday.
While Gillard scored a tactical victory, Australian media said the bitter in-fighting was a disaster for a party that has drawn flak for weak leadership and policy U-turns that have seen the prime minister dubbed “Ju-liar.”
“They look like Keystone Cops and the real test is still to come,” The Sydney Morning Herald said, referring to the September race. The Daily Telegraph was more brutal, screaming: “Chicken Kev does his dash with Gillard leading Labor into oblivion,” while the Australian Financial Review noted that “everyone’s bloodied in this train wreck”.