Premier hits out amid coup rumours
A kingmaker legislator has warned Australia's ruling party that it could lose control of the government if it dumps the prime minister in the face of disastrous opinion polls, a news report has said.
Independent politician Rob Oakeshott spoke out as speculation mounts that prime minister Julia Gillard's job is under threat a year after she overthrew her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, in an internal Labour Party coup.
Centre-left Labour holds a single-seat majority in the parliament with the support of Mr Oakeshott, another two independents and a member of the minor Greens party.
"If the Labour Party organisation wants to mess with Julia Gillard, the Labour Party organisation is messing with people such as myself," Mr Oakeshott told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
For the first time on Saturday, Ms Gillard publicly attacked Mr Rudd in a move some analysts say is proof that her job is under threat. The attack came days after Mr Rudd, now foreign minister, denied a newspaper report that he was plotting a return to power as Ms Gillard's government tanks in opinion polls.
Ms Gillard, in an interview published in News Corp newspapers, said her party "lost a sense of purpose and plan for the future" under Mr Rudd.
Ms Gillard had been Mr Rudd's deputy before she challenged for the leadership in a ballot of politicians as opinion polls showed Labour was facing defeat at looming elections.
When he became aware of Ms Gillard's overwhelming support, Mr Rudd quit without a vote on June 24.
Under Ms Gillard, Labour scraped through elections in August to form a minority government. Ms Gillard previously was coy about her reasons for toppling Mr Rudd, saying only that "a good government had lost its way".
But with her first anniversary as Australia's first woman prime minister approaching and a new poll showing that twice as many voters prefer Mr Rudd to her, Ms Gillard has become more scathing.