Senior Labor MPs say Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd can no longer sit at the same table. Picture: Richard Polden Source: PerthNow
[release] • "They can't both sit at the cabinet table": adviser
• Sacking option seen as show of strength
• Caucus showdown risks appearance of paranoia
• Your words: How you describe Gillard, Rudd
• Video: Kevin Rudd YouTube swearing remixes
KEY backers of Julia Gillard have decided she and Kevin Rudd cannot both sit at the cabinet table.
The strong view means a dramatic sacking of the Foreign Minister next week, banishing him to the back bench, is now the top option for the Prime Minister.
Mr Rudd will not return to Australia from a series of overseas engagements until Sunday morning, just before the resumption of Parliament on Monday.
Julia Gillard is being urged to confront him and take away his portfolio because the leadership tensions are stalling the Government's operations.
"They can't both sit at the cabinet table," one Gillard adviser told news.com.au.
The Prime Minister has been told that a showdown with Mr Rudd in a Caucus ballot would make her appear paranoid to voters, even though she would win it.
However, sacking Mr Rudd would be an expression of her authority and would be understood by most voters as a necessary step, the advisers have said.
That would leave Mr Rudd free to speak out on all issues from the back bench, but without the elevated position of a minister speaking for the nation.
The sacking strategy emerged as Ms Gillard's top option today after close colleagues decided the Prime Minister had to do something about what they saw as the undermining by Mr Rudd and his backers.
Two back benchers, Senator Doug Cameron and Ed Husic, today called for an end to attacks on Mr Rudd by senior ministers, in particular Regional Development Minister Simon Crean.
Part of Ms Gillard's problem is that while the assault on Mr Rudd has been high profile, his attacks on her largely have been subterranean, in confidential conversations with journalists and business executives.
Independent MP Tony Windsor has added to the anti-Rudd campaign by questioning whether the former Prime Minister had the management ability to handle a minority government. And he repeated a warning a leadership change could cause a snap election.
"The new leader may not have the numbers on the floor of the House and that could lead to an early election. That may or may not occur, but it is an option,'' Mr Windsor told Sky News.
He said he doubted Mr Rudd's patience to negotiate with cross-bench MPs.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said today the majority of Caucus backed Ms Gillard.
"It's up to her how she deals with the leadership speculation. It's certainly distracting the party, but having said that, there's a lot which we're getting on with."
Mr Rudd ignored questions about the leadership issue, saying: “Well I’m here to do some work as Foreign Minister and that’s what I’m employed by the Australian public to do and that is what I’m precisely doing.
“And furthermore, as I’ve said in many other places, I’m fully engaged with being Foreign Minister and there are many things on the agenda at present."
However he also said: "Can I just say, as I’ve said many times before, that we have a Prime Minister; I support the Prime Minister; and I intend to remain as Foreign Minister."[/release]