Australian PM Gillard in reshuffle after 'unseemly' vote

Julia Gillard (L) with Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan (R) in Canberra on 21 March 2013 Ms Gillard said the party leadership ructions 'gave clarity' for the future

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has unveiled a new front bench, days after an abortive leadership vote she called "unseemly" and "self-indulgent".

Late last week, she survived a challenge after rival Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister, declined to contest a leadership ballot.

On Monday Ms Gillard named replacements for a slew of cabinet and junior ministers who had supported Mr Rudd.

And she hit out at last week's Labor party political infighting.


"Unseemly" and "self-indulgent" were the words used by Julia Gillard, who said she was "appalled" by last week's leadership chaos in Canberra.

Doubtless most voters would agree, but the problem for Ms Gillard is that many Australians believe she brought these problems on herself by ousting Kevin Rudd in 2010. Thus, the old adage "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" does not apply.

Even if her leadership of the party is more secure after Mr Rudd announced he would never again seek the job, her government has been significantly weakened by the departure of senior ministers loyal to him.

With some of Labor's most respected ministers - Simon Crean, Martin Ferguson and Chris Bowen - now on the backbenches rather than the front, Ms Gillard's has responded to the depletion of her ranks by creating three new super-ministries, with what look like unwieldy portfolios.

The environment minister Tony Burke will also look after arts. Greg Combet, the climate change minister, will add industry to his responsibilities. Among the promoted ministers is Anthony Albanese, a key Rudd backer whose disloyalty has gone unpunished.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott, the biggest winner from last week's events, has labelled this an "L-plate cabinet".

"Like Australians around the nation I was appalled by events of last week," she said. "It was an unseemly display, but out of that has come clarity.

"It is now very clear indeed that I have the confidence of my colleagues to lead the Labor Party and to remain as prime minister."

Key appointments included Anthony Albanese - seen as a Rudd supporter - as minister for regional development and local government, replacing Simon Crean, who forced the leadership ballot.

Gary Gray joined the cabinet as minister for resources and energy, tourism and small business, replacing Martin Ferguson.

The reshuffle comes as Australia heads for a general election scheduled for 14 September. Opinions polls have Labor on course for defeat at the hands of Tony Abbott's Liberal Party.

And a Galaxy poll conducted over the weekend by Australia's Daily Telegraph said that 71% of respondents felt that the prime minister had been damaged by the party leadership instability.

The ballot followed weeks of speculation that Mr Rudd - the former prime minister ousted by Ms Gillard in 2010 - was amassing the support needed to challenge her.

But minutes before the vote was due to take place, he announced he would not run, saying he did not have the numbers.

Mr Rudd has since ruled out challenging for the party leadership again.

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