Australia PM axes rival's supporter
After surviving a bitter leadership challenge from her predecessor, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has axed one of her rival's supporters in a Cabinet reshuffle that capped a chaotic week in Australian politics.
The PM demoted emergency management minister Robert McClelland, a supporter of Kevin Rudd, who resigned as foreign minister last week and then attempted to oust Ms Gillard in an internal party vote. Ms Gillard had deposed Mr Rudd as prime minister two years ago in an internal party coup.
Ms Gillard easily defeated Mr Rudd on Monday and has spent the past week trying to figure out a way to reunite her fractured party and Cabinet. At a press conference in the capital, Canberra, Ms Gillard insisted the drama-riddled power challenge had not played a role in the Cabinet reshuffling, which Mr Rudd's resignation made necessary.
Asked whether Mr McClelland's support of Mr Rudd had affected her decision to drop him from the ministry, Ms Gillard replied: "The decisions I've made about my team are about merit, about the strongest possible team."
Mr McClelland was expected to make a statement about his political future later.
In a surprise move, Ms Gillard appointed former New South Wales state premier Bob Carr as foreign minister.
Many political observers had expected that defence minister Stephen Smith, who held the foreign ministry post before Mr Rudd, would be given the coveted job.
Mr Carr, who retired from politics in 2005, said he initially wrestled with whether to return to public service.
"But in the end, when the distinctive voice of the prime minister rouses you from your slumber and says, 'Will you be foreign minister of Australia?', I couldn't have found it in me to have said no," Mr Carr said.
After his defeat, Mr Rudd said he accepted the result and will not challenge Ms Gillard again.