Smith defends Albanese's Cabinet place

By Katina Curtis

Minister says former Rudd supporter shouldn't have to step down despite Opposition urging.

Anthony Albanese. Photo / Getty Images
Anthony Albanese. Photo / Getty Images

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith supports Anthony Albanese remaining in the Cabinet in the post-leadership ructions reshuffle.

But Albanese's opposition counterpart, Christopher Pyne, says the position of the Government's leader in the Lower House is untenable.

Albanese supported Kevin Rudd's leadership tilt in February last year.

But before the leadership vote last Thursday, the Transport and Infrastructure Minister said he wouldn't support toppling a Prime Minister.

"The idea that we could defeat Tony Abbott [the Coalition leader] after a divisive contest in the caucus room six months before an election is something that I would never support," Albanese said yesterday.

As it turned out, Rudd didn't put his hand up on Thursday and Prime Minister Julia Gillard kept her position unopposed.

Frontbenchers and whips who publicly backed Rudd's tilt have since resigned or, in the case of Simon Crean, been sacked.

Pyne said it was untenable for Albanese and fellow Cabinet members Mark Butler and Bob Carr to continue in their roles.

"You can't have Anthony Albanese leading the House for Julia Gillard in whom he hasn't expressed confidence," he told ABC TV. "He will have to go or the instability will continue."

But Smith said there was no basis for those ministers to go. Their position was entirely different to that of former parliamentary secretary Richard Marles or whip Joel Fitzgibbon, who had publicly campaigned for Rudd.

"People who have to think about their position are those people who say and do things which are inconsistent with their executive position," Smith told Network Ten. "Anthony Albanese made it clear after the failed leadership challenge by Kevin Rudd back in February last year ... that he would be absolutely loyal to the Government and to her [Gillard] from that moment on and he was." There had to be zero tolerance for disunity.

Gillard is expected to unveil her new front bench before a community Cabinet meeting in Perth on Wednesday.

The Opposition still plans to move a no-confidence motion in the Government when Parliament resumes for the Budget sitting in May. If the motion is successful, Abbott could ask the Governor-General to call an election immediately.

Abbott said if the crossbenchers were listening to their electorates they would join the Coalition and vote for the no-confidence motion.

"The current Government and all of the deceptions ... stem from too many backroom, closed-door deals."

- AAP

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