Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Kevin Rudd quits as Foreign Minister


Mr Rudd's decision comes after days of speculation that he was threatening Ms Gillard's leadership. Senior Labor figures had today urged Ms Gillard to bring the issue to a head.

Mr Rudd said the Australian people regarded the speculation as little more than a soap opera. “They are right,” he said. “Under the current circumstances, I won't be a part of it.”

To continue in the job would be distracting for the government, Mr Rudd said. “While I am sad to leave this office I am sadder still that it has come to this.”

He said a number of ministers and “faceless men” had publicly attacked his credibility and he would no longer serve as Foreign Minister while he did not enjoy the Prime Minister's support. “The last time I resigned from a position of public office was when I resigned as prime minister of Australia. Regrettably there have been some similar factors today. “It's time for some plain speaking on this. “The truth is I can only serve as Foreign Minister if I have the confidence of Prime Minister Gillard and her senior ministers.

“In recent days Mr (Simon) Crean and a number of other faceless men have publicly attacked my integrity and therefore my fitness to serve as a minister in the government.
“When challenged today on these attacks Prime Minister Gillard chose not to repudiate them. “I can only reluctantly conclude that she therefore shares these views.” Australia must be governed by the people, not party factions, Mr Rudd said. “I promise you this - there is no way, no way, that I will ever be part of a stealth attack on a sitting prime minister elected by the people,” he said. “We all know that what happened then was wrong and it must never happen again.”

Mr Rudd said it was now up to caucus to decide on the Labor leadership. He said he had few options in announcing his resignation overseas. “The truth is I feel very uncomfortable doing this from Washington and not in Australia,” Mr Rudd said. “But I don't feel like I have a choice given the responsibilities over the days ahead.”

Mr Rudd said the ongoing leadership speculation about the federal party was hurting Labor's prospects in the coming Queensland election. He said the saga was bad for his friend, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. “I believe the good people of Queensland deserve some clear space over the coming month as they make up their minds on a very important decision on the future of Queensland, my home state,” he said.

Mr Rudd called for sweeping reform of the Australian Labor Party. “I deeply believe that if the Australia Labor Party, a party of which I have been a proud member for more than 30 years, is to have the best future for our nation then it must change fundamentally its culture and to end the power of the faceless men “Australia must be governed by the people, not the factions.”“We all know that what happened then was wrong and it must never happen again.”

Tony Abbott said Mr Rudd had confirmed that the “faceless men” were running the Labor Party and that the instability at the top of the government was damaging the nation. “Kevin Rudd's statement tonight confirms that this government is unworthy to continue in office. “Only the Coalition can provide the strong and stable government that will address the issues facing our country and restore hope, reward and opportunity for all Australians. “ Mr Rudd said he would leave Washington later today.

Meanwhile, other Australian officials would replace him at scheduled international events over the next few days. “Under no circumstances do I want Australia's international reputation brought into disrepute because of this ongoing saga,” Mr Rudd said. “Therefore, Ambassador (Kim) Beazley will discharge my functions here on my behalf in Washington tomorrow and the permanent secretary of my department, Dennis Richardson, will represent me in London and in Tunis.”

Mr Rudd said he was proud of his department's work to re-engage with Europe, Africa and Latin America, which he labelled the “major economic regions of the future”. He also cited the appointment of Australia's first ever ambassador for women and girls and hoped the government would still honour a commitment to appoint its first indigenous Australian as an overseas ambassador.

He thanked his family wife Therese and children Jessica, Nicholas and Marcus. "Chatting to them over the course of the last several hours, I thank them for their encouragement and their support as always,” he said. Mr Rudd said he now had “much, much to do” and ended his press conference without taking questions.

Mr Rudd's daughter Jessica tweeted: “Effing proud of you, Dad xxxx”.
His wife Therese Rein responded: “Me too, Kevin xxxx”.

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