Team Rudd accused of sabotaging shaky Julia Gillard
Kevin Rudd backers have again been accused of engaging in a final attempt to destabilise Prime Minister Julia Gillard before the election.
With 108 days to go before the poll, tensions in the Labor caucus spilled over yesterday, with the PM coming under attack on a number of fronts from within her own ranks.
Rudd supporters have been accused of trying to inflame a sledging match in caucus after Senator John Faulkner condemned new laws which give political parties an extra $58 million in taxpayer-subsidised campaign funds and go soft on disclosure rules. Mr Faulkner called the laws a "disgrace".
MPs were also taken by surprise when retiring MP Steve Gibbons, a fan of neither Ms Gillard or Mr Rudd, put a motion to the caucus calling for the PM to be stripped of her powers to choose her Cabinet - powers first granted to Mr Rudd in 2007.
Marginal-seat MP Laura Smythe, a Rudd supporter, also weighed in, raising the ongoing debacle of asylum seeker policy.
Adding fuel to the fire, Mr Rudd yesterday backed Mr Gibbons' call, claiming he would support the reforms. A spokesman said: "Following his statements of February, 2012, of course Mr Rudd would support this change as part of a package of larger reforms to the Australian Labor Party, including reforms which Mr Rudd has spoken of in the past."
The PM was reported to have sat stony faced during caucus yesterday during Mr Faulkner's condemnation of the government's electoral bill to increase funding to political parties.
"The body language was very obvious. She was not happy," said one Labor MP, who claimed Treasurer Wayne Swan had sledged Mr Faulkner.
Mr Faulkner was reported to have said to the caucus meeting: "I'm not angry any more, I am just ashamed."
The outbreak of dissent followed an unprecedented spray on Monday from another Labor MP, key Rudd supporter and chair of the intelligence and security committee Anthony Byrne, who also labelled as "disgraceful" budget cuts to intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies.
Mr Byrne's comments sparked a question time stoush over national security. A source close to Ms Gillard confirmed the Prime Minister's camp feared a new round of destabilisation was being waged by team Rudd.
"They are definitely trying to blow the show up again. It looks like a co-ordinated attack. Because it is," one source close to the PM said.
A spokesman for Mr Rudd pointed to his comments of March 21, when he said he would never challenge for the Labor leadership again under any circumstances.
While most senior Labor figures described as "ludicrous" the possibility that another challenge could be mounted with only 108 days before the election, others said it could not be ruled out.
"How could you rule it out considering how badly we are going," one said.
Another senior Labor MP said the decision to lift funding for political parties was a fatal mistake and would go down very badly with voters.
"Seriously, what is wrong with this show?" the MP said.
"If there was any merit in this proposal you would have done it two years ago.
"We are making all these budget cuts, like cutting sole parent allowances and Newstart, and at the same time awarding ourselves $58 million. It's insane."
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