Prime minister Julia Gillard was today re-elected unopposed as leader of the parliamentary Labor party by the Labor caucus. Her deputy and treasurer, Wayne Swan, was also re-elected unchallenged.
The leadership spill followed Arts Minister and long-time Gillard ally Simon Crean calling for her to stand aside for the good of the party. Crean made his call public after speaking with Gillard both last night and this morning.
“This is an issue that has to be resolved. There is too much at stake. This is a very regretful decision for me,” Crean said.
“I believe that the agenda that is there but not understood well enough as reflected in many of the comments that come back, we need to settle this, move forward. As for the position of the positions being declared open, Kevin Rudd, in my view, has no alternative but to stand for the leadership.”
However, minutes before the caucus meeting, Rudd announced he would not contest the leadership.
Flanked by supportive colleagues in the corridor of Parliament House, Rudd said he had previously pledged he would only stand if the overwhelming majority of the party requested his return and the top position was vacant – circumstances, he said, which had not been met.
Rudd said he would adhere to his commitment: “I take my word seriously.” He called on the party to unite to ensure Tony Abbott did not walk into the Lodge.
The challenge was preceeded by days of speculation, much of it in the nation’s newspapers, about the leadership of the Labor party. Yesterday, parliamentary whip Joel Fitzgibbons admitted on ABC Radio that the party was having discussions about the leadership, but said no one was counting numbers.
It would be silly to deny that discussion about the leadership was going on, he said.
After being re-elected, Gillard addressed the media, saying she was grateful to her colleagues and accepted their support “with a sense of deep humility”.
“This has been settled, and settled in the most conclusive fashion possible,” Gillard said of the leadership issue.
Deputy PM Wayne Swan also briefly addressed the media, reiterating similar points.
Neither took questions.
Crean has moved to the back bench, resigning his portfolio. It is the first time in his 23 years as a parliamentarian he is without one.
During Question Time, which took place shortly after Crean’s public call, opposition leader Tony Abbott moved a motion of no confidence in the government. It gained 73 votes to 71 against, however it failed to achieve the absolute majority it needed to pass. The motion was supported by independents Rob Oakeshott, Tony Windsor and Andrew Wilkie. Bob Katter was not in parliament for the vote.
LeadingCompany’s previous coverage of the leadership spill is avaliable over the page.