Julia Gillard Back Flips and Appoints Bob Carr as Foreign Minister
After one of Australia’s more interesting weeks of politics, Prime Minister Gillard today back flipped yet again on the issue of foreign minister.
The week began with the annihilation of Kevin Rudd’s premature leadership challenge, which was mounted after Julia carefully lured him in for a fight. With her leadership hanging on by a thread, she realised if she took on Kevin and won then she could hold off a challenge by another member who might have more success.
And so the baiting began last week which resulted in Rudd’s resignation as Foreign Minister, and his mounting of an unsuccessful challenge on Monday. Rudd never stood a chance because his caucus colleagues don’t like him, so despite Gillard’s abysmal polling since becoming Prime Minister it was a case of better the devil you know.
So Gillard finished up on Monday night looking relatively strong, until Mark Arbib resigned from the Senate leaving Gillard with a seat to fill. Very quickly Bob Carr’s name was been thrown around as the new Senator to replace Mark Arbib and the new foreign minister to replace Rudd.
If only it were that easy. Cast your mind back to 2010 when Gillard rolled Rudd. At the time, Steven Smith was the Foreign Minister and he switched to Defence Minister to make way for Rudd to take his “senior post” after the 2010 election.
Steven Smith gave up foreign affairs to better unite the party, but the back room deal was that once the gloss of Rudd wore off Smith would return to his portfolio of choice, and there would be no one else in contention. When Rudd came out second best in the leadership spill, it was generally accepted that Smith would become Foreign Minister in the inevitable cabinet reshuffle.
Enter Bob Carr. Gillard calls the former Premier of NSW and puts the proposition of a casual Senate seat and elevation to the country’s most senior portfolio, and with Carr’s enthused response Gillard announces her intention to draft Bob Carr on Tuesday morning. By the afternoon Steven Smith, who is considered a potential future leader of the Australian Labor Party had hosed down the idea. Gillard later announced the idea was dead.
Gillard looked weak and again looked like she had no control or authority over her front bench, and the headlines were unrelenting. So Gillard did the only thing a proud politician could do in such a situation; she defied her cabinet and announced Carr as foreign minister.
This is where the story ends for now, but rest assured Steven Smith is planning his challenge for the leadership and will likely mount it before 2012 is out.