Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she’s the best person to lead Australia’s Labor Party through “turbulent days” to the next election as speculation increased over a challenge to her leadership.
Gillard last week promoted a number of politicians who helped her topple former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a June 2010 coup, as her personal standing jumped to the highest level since May, according to a Dec. 5 Newspoll. Speculation about growing support for Rudd, now Australia’s foreign minister, continued after her Cabinet changes.
“What we need is someone with the calm and method to deliver some big changes during turbulent days,” Gillard told the Sun-Herald newspaper yesterday, as part of end-of-year interviews published in Australian newspapers over the weekend. “That requires someone who doesn’t get much buffeted by the twists and turns but is just, in a very determined way, with some resistance and perseverance, staying on a path -- and I think I’m good at that.”
Public satisfaction with Gillard’s performance rose to 36 percent from 34 percent three weeks ago, according to the poll published in the Australian newspaper. The survey was taken Dec. 2 to Dec. 5 after her government passed laws on carbon and mining taxes and signed a defense accord with the U.S.
Gillard leads a minority government after replacing Rudd in a late-night coup last year. Labor Party members moved to depose Rudd after poor poll ratings amid a battle with miners including BHP Billiton Ltd. over his plans for a 40 percent tax on resources profits and after he reneged on a promise to introduce a carbon tax.
Lead to Election
Gillard said she will lead Labor to an election in 2013.
“We have defied predictions and achieved more, with more stability, than many people thought possible at this time last year,” she told the Sun-Herald.
Gillard’s increased popularity is helping rebuild support for her Labor government, which trails opposition leader Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition 46 percent to 54 percent, according to the Dec. 5 poll.
In the Cabinet reshuffle, Gillard promoted Bill Shorten to workplace relations minister, tasking the former union official with managing employment disputes amid criticism by business of her government’s labor laws.
She also added the industry department to Climate Change Minister Greg Combet’s responsibilities, named Tanya Plibersek as health minister and moved Nicola Roxon from the health portfolio to become the nation’s first female attorney-general.
Discontent about the new appointments, which saw ministers Kim Carr and Robert McClelland demoted, sparked a group of senior ministers to swing their support behind Rudd, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Dec. 16 without saying where it obtained the information.
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson on Dec. 15 refused to back Gillard, saying instead that he was loyal to the Labor Party, the ABC said.
In her interviews, Gillard, 50, said her priorities for next year would include implementing a price on carbon emissions from July 1, the government’s mining tax, aged-care reforms and keeping a strong focus on the economy, including returning the world’s biggest exporter of iron ore, coal and alumina to a budget surplus by 2013.
Europe’s debt crisis is making it harder for the government to meet its pledge to return to a surplus, Treasurer Wayne Swan said last month.
Still, Australia’s economy retained strong fundamentals with solid economic growth, low public debt levels and a A$455 billion ($454 billion) investment pipeline in resources, Swan said in his economic note yesterday.
“Our situation could not be more different to those European nations that are crumbling under the weight of weak and negative growth, mass unemployment and unsustainable debt levels,” he said.
Speculation that Gillard, the nation’s first female prime minister, faced a leadership challenge was reported in September.