Gillard Shuffles Cabinet After Failed Leadership Challenge

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a new Cabinet lineup, replacing ministers who backed Kevin Rudd in a failed bid against her leadership as she seeks to build momentum ahead of September elections.

Gary Gray will join the Cabinet as resources minister, while Transport Minister Anthony Albanese will take on additional responsibilities for regional development and local government, Gillard told reporters in Canberra today.

Australia’s first female prime minister is seeking to rebuild her frontbench after three senior Cabinet members who backed Rudd departed last week. She faces the challenge of ensuring her message isn’t drowned out by disarray in the ruling Labor party, as polls show voters consistently preferring the Liberal-National opposition ahead of elections due Sept. 14.

“Gillard needs to put the last week behind her, because it damaged her hopes of presenting Labor as being able to govern in unified, rational way,” said Zareh Ghazarian, a lecturer in politics at Monash University in Melbourne. “She obviously had to make changes to her team and is putting a positive spin on it, but voters know the reason for the change is because of all the disunity in her party.”

Labor trails the coalition 55 percent to 45 percent on a two-party preferred basis, according to a Galaxy poll published in the Herald Sun newspaper yesterday. The measure is designed to gauge which party is likely to win enough seats to form a government under Australia’s preferential voting system. The poll of 1,005 people was conducted March 22 to March 23. It didn’t provide a margin of error.

Gillard ‘Appalled’

Gillard, 51, called the leadership contest on March 21 after former party chief Simon Crean urged Rudd to challenge for the role he lost to her in a June 2010 party coup. Gillard won uncontested after Rudd, who failed in a February 2012 challenge, decided not to run.

In the aftermath, Crean, who was regional development minister, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Small Business Minister Chris Bowen departed Gillard’s Cabinet.

“Like Australians around the nation I was appalled by the events of last week,” Gillard said. “It was an unseemly display but out of that has come clarity. It is now very clear indeed that I have the confidence of my colleagues to lead the Labor party and to remain as prime minister.”

Gray, who will also take on the portfolios of tourism and small business, worked as corporate affairs director for Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-biggest oil producer, before being elected to parliament in 2007 in the Perth seat of Brand.

Highly Regarded

“Gray is a sound appointment because of his contacts and rapport with the resources industry,” Ghazarian said. The Australian Mines and Metals Association said in a statement that “Gray is highly regarded by the resources sector” and employers look forward to working with him.

Environment Minister Tony Burke adds arts to his responsibilities, while Trade Minister Craig Emerson will take on the tertiary education portfolio. The Department of Climate Change will be merged with the Industry Department and will become the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, Gillard said.

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