Bloomberg News

Australian Labor Lawmakers Back Gillard as Prime Minister

September 04, 2011

(Updates to add parliament sitting date in seventh paragraph.)

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Australian Labor lawmakers rallied in support of Prime Minister Julia Gillard after reports some senior party figures want her to resign.

“Julia Gillard is very firmly the leader of the Labor Party and will continue to be, and she has the firm support of the caucus,” Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said yesterday on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s “Insiders” program.

Gillard has seen her popularity in Newspoll surveys fall 19 percentage points since she started her job in August 2010 as she enacted unpopular steps to address climate change by introducing a plan to tax carbon emissions.

The reports about her leadership began after the High Court last week rejected her government’s agreement with Malaysia on dealing with refugees.

“I will be leading the Labor Party till the next election,” Gillard, the country’s first female prime minister, told reporters in Canberra Sept. 3 after a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Labor’s support fell two points to 27 percent last month, according to a Newspoll survey of 1,147 people published in the Australian newspaper on Aug. 23. The opposition Liberal-National coalition attracted 47 percent support, on a primary vote basis. More than 35,500 respondents in a Sun-Herald online poll want Gillard to go compared with 3,317 who want her to stay, the newspaper reported.

‘Fully Supportive’

“Everybody I speak to is fully supportive of the Prime Minister,” Minister for School Education Peter Garrett told Sky News yesterday. “We are supportive of Julia Gillard, absolutely.”

Parliament is scheduled to resume Sept. 12.

Labor lawmakers are considering a plan in which Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, whom Gillard replaced in a late-night party coup in June 2010, would become leader and Defense Minister Stephen Smith would become treasurer, the News Ltd. newspapers said.

Gillard, 49, won the leadership after the party dumped Rudd because of poor poll ratings amid a battle with miners like BHP Billiton Ltd. over his plans for a 40 percent tax on resource profits and after he reneged on establishing a plan to control carbon emissions.

Labor, criticized over its suspension in June of live cattle exports to Indonesia, is struggling to garner support for its proposed carbon tax, a A$36 billion ($39 billion) national high-speed wireless network and a mining levy.

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan said Sept. 3 Gillard has his full support.

“Julia Gillard is tough as nails and she’s going to lead the Labor Party for a long period of time because she’s up to tackling the big challenges that this country faces for the future,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

--Editors: Keith Gosman, Paul Tighe

To contact the reporter on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe ptighe@bloomberg.net


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