Senior government sources have reported that Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd eighteen months ago that he would support a change in leadership if he were to become Federal Treasurer as a part of the deal.
It is alleged that Mr Combet raised the possibility of a deal during a meeting in Mr Rudd’s office at the end of 2011, shortly before the first challenge to Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership. It is reported that Mr Rudd rejected Mr Combet’s approach for the Treasury job, going on to lose his first attempt at regaining the Labor leadership in February 2012.
Two government insiders have confirmed the reports that Mr Combet had attempted to make a deal with Mr Rudd, claiming that they were prepared to reveal the backroom politics after the former ACTU secretary made several “aggressive” attacks on Mr Rudd in the media over the past week. Mr Combet publically challenged Mr Rudd to contest the Labor leadership again if he believed that he had sufficient support in the caucus.
When contacted by The Daily Telegraph last night Mr Rudd would not discuss the details of his conversation with Mr Combet, which is alleged to have taken place prior to the Durban Climate Change conference. He said that it was “not my practice to confirm private conversations” and refused to say whether he had rejected a deal proposed to him by his parliamentary colleague.
A spokesperson for Mr Combet said: “Minister Combet refutes these assertions. Minister Combet is on the record as a consistent supporter of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Minister Combet met with Mr Rudd in 2011, in Mr Rudd’s then capacity as foreign affairs minister, to discuss upcoming international climate change negotiations.”
The allegation against Mr Combet comes as speculation increases regarding a potential attempt by Mr Rudd to regain leadership of the Labor Party before the 2013 federal election. The Rudd camp has consistently claimed that he would stand for the leadership only if senior members of the Gillard government asked her to stand down, or called for a ballot to determine the issue in caucus.
Senior Labor Party MPs have reportedly said that they believe that a leadership challenge will take place within the week. This week the Australian Services Union, which has traditionally supported the ALP, revealed that a poll of its membership showed that a significant number of its registered workers planned to dump the Labor government at the next election.