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July 24, 2017

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Gillard picks retired premier for foreign minister

SYDNEY -- Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard pulled veteran politician Bob Carr out of retirement and named him foreign minister Friday, replacing the rival who unsuccessfully challenged her for the top job during a chaotic week in the ruling Labor Party's fortunes.

Last week's resignation of Kevin Rudd as foreign minister made it necessary for Gillard to reshuffle her Cabinet. In the process she also demoted one official who publicly backed Rudd's effort to oust her: Emergency Management Minister Robert McClelland.

The appointment of Carr, former premier of New South Wales state, was a surprise. He retired from politics in 2005 and said he initially wrestled with whether to return to public service.

"But in the end, when the distinctive voice of the prime minister rouses you from your slumber and says, 'Will you be foreign minister of Australia?' I couldn't have found it in me to have said no," Carr said.

Many political observers had expected that Defense Minister Stephen Smith, who held the foreign ministry post before Rudd, would be given the coveted job. Smith said he wasn't upset about being passed over and was happy to continue in his defense role.

"There are no entitlements in public life," he said. "I don't have any entitlement to be disappointed."

Rudd resigned as foreign minister last week and then attempted to oust Gillard in vote of Labor Party lawmakers on Monday. Gillard, who deposed Rudd as prime minister two years ago in an internal party coup, easily defeated him and has been trying since to reunite her fractured party and Cabinet.

At a press conference Friday in the capital, Canberra, Gillard insisted the drama-riddled power challenge did not play a role in the Cabinet reshuffling.

Asked whether McClelland's support of Rudd had affected her decision to drop him from the ministry, Gillard replied, "The decisions I've made about my team are about merit, about the strongest possible team."

But McClelland later said Gillard told him Friday that she was ousting him in part because he had "gone further" with his advocacy for Rudd than others.

"I had every expectation that this could be the outcome. Indeed, as of Monday, I started packing my office," McClelland told reporters in Sydney. "I went into my support for Kevin Rudd on a matter of principle, knowing full well that this could be the consequence."

McClelland said he had no plans to quit politics, and offered no apologies for backing Rudd.

"You get to a point in life where you call the matter as you see it. I called the matter, and the consequences are the consequences," he said.

Gillard is lagging in opinion polls, and Rudd and his supporters had said their center-left party will get trounced by the conservative opposition if she continues to lead in elections scheduled for next year. Many other Labor lawmakers, however, were unhappy with Rudd's performance as prime minister before his 2010 ouster and continue to support Gillard.

After his defeat, Rudd said he accepted the result and would not challenge Gillard again.

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