Monday, 6 February 2012

Rudd's supporters never say die.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott drawn into campaign by Kevin Rudd supporters
Kevin Rudd

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, flanked by media adviser Kate Sieper and chief of staff Philip Green, arrives late for a caucus meeting in Canberra. Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Australian
Key independent Rob Oakeshott says he's been approached by Kevin Rudd supporters about his attitude to a possible leadership challenge to Julia Gillard.

However he said he would be “thoroughly unimpressed” should a “self-obsessed” Labor seek to change leaders.

As Labor MPs ended their first regular caucus meeting of the year, Mr Oakeshott said he was happy to talk to any member of parliament who could “command a majority on the floor of the house” if there was any future leadership spill.

The MP for Lyne, who was key to Labor forming minority government following the 2010 election, said he had been sounded out by Kevin Rudd and/or his backers about a potential challenge. “Yeah, at different times,” Mr Oakeshott told Sky News, when asked if he had been approached by the Rudd camp.

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Asked if Mr Rudd's supporters had canvassed whether he would support a Rudd government, Mr Oakeshott said: “Only in very general terms.” “And I've been very clear over the past 18 months that I would weigh up what is in front of me if it did happen and I would be thoroughly unimpressed if it did,” Mr Oakeshott said.

However the MP said the approaches had not been recent. Mr Oakeshott also said if the government was to change leaders “all bets are off”. “All I've said is I will talk to any member of parliament who can command a majority on the floor of the house if the Labor party, in my view, was so arrogant and so self-obsessed that they dropped the ball on the reality that 18 months ago one person was left to be chief and sole negotiator on behalf of the Labor party and negotiations were done with a range of crossbenchers, handshakes were done,” Mr Oakeshott said.

His comments follow those of fellow independent Tony Windsor, who said today he did not believe a leadership challenge was imminent and that speculation was being blown up by the media. Mr Windsor said the Labor Party was being drowned by leadership tensions but the party had a good story to tell. “If a few people in the Labor Party want to throw that away, for their own short-term political positions, well I think that would be a bit of a shame,” he said.

The continued speculation came as a Nielsen poll showed Labor's primary vote at its highest since March 2010, up 4 points to 33 per cent. Ms Gillard brushed off the poll and questions about her dealings with Mr Rudd and his potential leadership challenge, saying she dealt with him frequently in his capacity as Foreign Minister. “On everything else I'll leave you to your fevered speculation, which doesn't need any facts or any commentary from me for it to continue,” Ms Gillard said.

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