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Australian PM Gillard defends job

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended her job after newspapers reported rifts in government ranks over her leadership and a scuttled policy to send hundreds of asylum seekers to Malaysia.

The government is reeling from a High Court ruling on Wednesday that thwarted its plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Kuala Lumpur in a policy aimed at deterring others from journeying to Australia by boat.

The ruling is a major blow to the credibility of the ruling Labour Party that was already plumbing record lows in opinion polls. Anonymous government sources told newspapers Mrs Gillard could soon be overthrown as her party's leader in an internal government coup.

But Mrs Gillard told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio on Friday that none of her colleagues had raised with her frustration with her leadership. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm the best person to do this job and I'll continue to do it."

Poor opinion polling prompted Labour politicians to dump Kevin Rudd in favour of Mrs Gillard in June last year, but Labour's polling has now worsened to catastrophic lows under two years out from the next election.

Mrs Gillard was re-elected in August last year with a promise to send asylum seekers to a regional processing centre that Australia would build on East Timor. East Timor never agreed to the plan, so Mrs Gillard turned her attention to Malaysia with a policy that is now in tatters. The High Court ruling also casts doubt over another proposal to send asylum seekers to a malaria-prone island off Papua New Guinea.

The government is also weighed down by Mrs Gillard's broken promise to never introduce a tax on carbon gas emissions, and most commentators give her administration no chance of retaining power at 2013 elections. Instead, most argue that Labour must focus on limiting the looming loss.

"The idea of replacing her is no longer pie in the sky," an unnamed government minister told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. The Herald Sun newspaper cited unnamed senior government figures as saying Mrs Gillard had "lost her authority" and must weigh up whether remaining prime minister was in Labour's best interests.

Senior government figures spoke out in support of Gillard on Friday.

"She's the right person at the right time for this nation," said government minister Bill Shorten, who is touted as a future potential prime minister.


From Belfast Telegraph