Thursday 8 December 2011

Split widens in Labor's senior ranks over party review

Julia Gillard faces growing dissent, with three senior cabinet ministers now openly rejecting her decision to keep secret an internal Labor Party report criticising her performance in last year's federal election campaign.

Schools Minister Peter Garrett yesterday joined former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson in calling for the release of the document, which was prepared by party elders John Faulkner, Steve Bracks and Bob Carr.

But Wayne Swan has rejected the suggestion it should be released and said the continued focus on the report was "rubbish". Ministers began to pick sides in the debate yesterday amid growing party anger that parts of the report were leaked earlier this week. Fingers are being pointed at Gillard supporters trying to damage Mr Rudd to prevent the possibility of him returning to the Labor leadership.

One senior source told The Australian last night: "Whoever did this thinking this was good for the government is just plain wrong. They need to remember that they don't own the Labor Party." Another senior source said: "It obviously came from the Prime Minister's office or one of her supporters. They should have better things to do."The rest of us are trying to get on with governing."

After last year's federal election delivered a hung parliament, the Prime Minister turned to Senator Faulkner and former state premiers of Victoria and NSW respectively, Mr Bracks and Mr Carr, to examine the campaign and report on what went wrong. Part of their report dealing with Labor Party internal reform was released, while their assessment of the campaign was kept secret.

On Monday, the three authors reacted to a leak of part of the report by calling for it to be made public to prevent selective leaking, a point backed by Mr Ferguson. But on Tuesday, Ms Gillard said the report would remain secret. Yesterday Mr Garrett said: "I think it is important that we do at some stage see the full detail of what Senator Faulkner and Mr Bracks and Mr Carr produced for us. Now that there's some material on the public record, it makes sense for it all to be there."

Mr Rudd's spokeswoman said he remained convinced the report should be released.
However, the Treasurer said the report was a matter for the Labor Party and had been dealt with at its national conference at the weekend. Insisting he was more interested in doing his job, Mr Swan said: "I'm not concerned about what's in a Labor Party review or not. That's the Labor Party's business. For people to be rabbitting on about this every minute of the day is just beyond me. I just think it's rubbish."

Finance Minister Penny Wong said the publication of the report was an issue for Labor's national executive, while Trade Minister Craig Emerson said he did not mind if the report was released. "I think a few people have already seen it," Dr Emerson said. "I don't have a strong view. I just want to move forward. I am interested in policy and I think that if we focus on good policy people will support us."

Tony Abbott said the furore was evidence that relations between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd were poisonous. "It's pretty obvious that Kevin Rudd is gunning for the PM and I think it's pretty obvious that one or other of them has to go," the Opposition Leader told Sydney radio station 2GB yesterday
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