Saturday 10 September 2011

Julia Gillard calls emergency meetings of Labor MPs to rescue asylum policy as Kevin Rudd looms large

kevin rudd

Julia Gillard has called emergency summits of her ministers and Labor MPs for Monday morning in a bid to rescue her asylum policy amid further warnings her leadership is terminal.

Labor MPs have told The Courier-Mail they have been contacted by former MPs and union figures acting on behalf of the factional powerbrokers who installed Ms Gillard to warn against a shift back to Kevin Rudd.

One Labor MP claimed they had been told Labor could win back 1.5 million votes if the party strikes a deal to resume offshore processing of asylum seekers.

Ms Gillard's leadership has been tied to the resolution of the asylum seeker policy, with calls for her to resign emerging after the High Court last week rejected her planned people swap with Malaysia.

The extraordinary cabinet and caucus meetings on Monday are designed to kill off dissent within the ALP about Ms Gillard's plan to resurrect offshore processing of asylum seekers before parliament resumes for the next fortnight.

Tony Abbott has offered to strike a deal with Labor to get around the High Court ruling, but only to reopen detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Some Labor MPs are opposed to striking a deal with Mr Abbott because they fear Labor will be left looking weak and will lose support from both the Left and the Right.

But a threatened caucus revolt over offshore processing appears likely to fail, with sources in the Labor Left saying many would accept a plan to send asylum seekers overseas to neutralise the issue.

Leadership speculation is set to intensify next week, with Mr Rudd likely to make an early return to public life after undergoing heart surgery.

Mr Rudd's spokesman has said the Foreign Affairs Minister will return to work once doctors give him the green light.

This would need to happen within days if Mr Rudd is to attend Australia-US security talks in San Francisco next week.

While there appears to be no organised push to topple Ms Gillard, some Labor MPs have started to privately question whether Ms Gillard can rescue the party from electoral oblivion.

In a sign Ms Gillard's backers fear her support within the caucus is collapsing, Labor figures have stepped up pressure on wavering MPs in the past week, ALP sources said.

One MP said he and others had been contacted by union figures and former Labor MPs acting as emissaries of right wing factional powerbrokers including Bill Shorten, Stephen Conroy and Mark Arbib to argue against a return to Mr Rudd.

The powerbrokers could not be contacted last night.

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