Friday, 2 September 2011

Tick, tick, time ticking away for Julia and Labor!

Labor MPs urge Prime Minister Julia Gillard to consider quitting

Senior Government figures believe Prime Minister Julia Gillard has "lost her authority" and have urged her to weigh whether it is in Labor's best interests for her to remain leader.

Some of the Labor figures who supported Ms Gillard when she replaced Kevin Rudd as PM just 14 months ago are considering a major backflip. They are now floating a remarkable plan that could return Mr Rudd to the leadership, with Stephen Smith as his deputy and Treasurer.

"This is about authority and whether she can assert her authority because she hasn't got it now," one senior figure said.

The concern comes from within the PM's own factional allies in the Victorian left faction, it is believed. Senior powerbrokers confirmed last night they were aware of discussions within some elements of the caucus over Ms Gillard's leadership.

It had gained momentum since Wednesday's decision by the High Court to throw out the government's Malaysian Solution for asylum seekers.

Gillard hits back amid voter backlash

But they played down talk of a move to remove Ms Gillard as leader, claiming it would be electoral suicide. Even those talking about leadership options insist they do not want another coup and Ms Gillard would have to voluntarily step down.

Last night Ms Gillard vowed to stare down any revolt.

"The Labor team supports me as the best person to do this job as Prime Minister," she said.
"There will always be discussions within political parties ... obviously that's the right place to do it, in the party room."

Others in the ALP said Defence Minister Mr Smith would have the numbers in any ballot and Climate Change Minister Greg Combet could emerge as deputy, while some said former leader Simon Crean should be given a senior post to win back business community support.

The disquiet has exposed a split at the senior levels of the government as there remains a big chunk of support for Ms Gillard, with other senior figures saying it would be "madness" to change leader under any circumstances

It is believed heavyweights in the dominant National Right wing faction, including Victorians Bill Shorten and David Feeney, South Australian powerbroker Don Farrell and the NSW Right's Mark Arbib, still back Ms Gillard. The NSW Left factional leader Anthony Albanese was also believed to support her as PM.

"If we were to change leaders now, it would be the dumbest thing I have ever seen in politics," one senior player said.

But another senior figure said the interests of the ALP and keeping Tony Abbott out of power must come first.

"There are serious question marks about her continuing. She has to do what is in the best interests of the party. Everyone needs to set aside their hatred of each other ... but if she doesn't pick up then we have to change."


Peter Beattie's secret comeback plans

This morning The Gold Coast Bulletin revealed that former Queensland premier Peter Beattie held confidential talks with top Labor officials to fast-track a run for Federal Parliament before the Gillard Government was rocked by the High Court refugee decision.

The secret dinner was held in Brisbane last week to discuss the catastrophic loss of confidence in Julia Gillard and the need for a Labor shake-up in Canberra.

Labor state secretary Anthony Chisholm is believed to have been involved in "Project Beattie" but federal president and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh was excluded.

Mr Beattie, who retired after winning four straight Queensland elections in 2007, topped a radio 4BC phone poll as preferred Labor PM from seven other Labor MPs yesterday.

Ms Gillard tried to dismiss the Beattie comeback as "idle newspaper gossip" before being confronted by protests outside a community Cabinet forum on Brisbane's southside last night.

Treasurer Wayne Swan described the Beattie push as "hypothetical" and a Beattie family member was equally cautious, telling television news crews there had been "no formal approach."


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