Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson resigned today in the third departure from Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s cabinet since she retained the Labor party leadership yesterday.
Ferguson told reporters he would have supported former prime minister Kevin Rudd had he stood against Gillard yesterday in a leadership ballot, and that quitting the cabinet was now the “honorable” thing to do.
“I will go to the backbench, give the government my absolute support and contribute to policy debate,” Ferguson told reporters in Canberra, adding he will stand at the next election and serve a full term. “It was not an easy decision, it’s the honorable decision and I do not resile from it.”
Ferguson, 59, served as resources, tourism and energy minister since the election of the Labor government in 2007 and was a senior member of the cabinet. A former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, he was elected to parliament in 1996 and served continuously on Labor’s front bench.
Ferguson joins Simon Crean, also a former ACTU president, and Chris Bowen in leaving Gillard’s cabinet since she won a leadership ballot unopposed yesterday. Ferguson, like Crean, invoked the legacy of the Labor governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in urging the Gillard administration to stay true to the party’s values.
The Minerals Council of Australia said in a statement Ferguson was “an excellent minister who will be greatly missed by Australia’s mining sector.”
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