Federal Politics

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Gillard 'will remain as PM'

Senior government ministers have backed the Prime Minister's decision to sideline Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper and are insisting that Julia Gillard will lead Labor to the next election, despite questions over the way the government has handled the two issues and more dire poll results.

Finance Minister Penny Wong says Ms Gillard made the "right call" when she rang Mr Thomson to ask him to move to the crossbenches and withdrew her support for Mr Slipper's return to the speaker's chair, while he continues to face sexual harassment claims.

Senator Wong told Channel 9 that the Federal Parliament's reputation had been compromised by the allegations surrounding both MPs.

"As the leader of the nation, she did come to the view that she had to act," she said.

"She's the Prime Minister of the country and she has to make a judgment call."

Senator Wong was joined this morning by Treasurer Wayne Swan, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and Trade Minister Craig Emerson, who all backed Ms Gillard's handling of the Thomson and Slipper affairs at the weekend.


This comes as the latest Galaxy poll, published in the Daily Telegraph, brings more bad news for the Gillard government.

The poll put Labor's primary vote at 30 per cent, compared to the Coalition's at 49 per cent. In the two party preferred stakes, the Coalition now leads the government by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

Senator Wong acknowledged that the government faced difficult poll results but said Ms Gillard would lead Labor to the next federal election, expected in 2013.

"We've got a lot of work to do," she said.

"I know the Prime Minister is focused on doing what's right for the country and doing what's right for working Australians."

Dr Emerson insisted that Ms Gillard's job was not under threat, despite reports that support for her leadership was crumbling.

"Her job is safe because she is a leader who has guts and determination," Dr Emerson told ABC radio in Sydney.

Dr Emerson also said that Mr Thomson was still entitled to the presumption of innocence and denied that the embattled Member for Dobell had been dumped ahead of the release of a Fair Work Australia report on the national office of the Health Services Union.

"Neither the Prime Minister nor I know what's in the Fair Work Australia report," he said.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said that Ms Gillard has showed "no judgment" in appointing Mr Slipper as Speaker last year and in previously stating her "full confidence" in Mr Thomson while he faced claims that he misused union funds.

Mr Abbott is calling for an early election while insisting that the independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor withdraw their support for the government.

"[Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott should] wake up to themselves and start listening to their electorates,'' he told reporters in Perth.

Mr Abbott is also arguing that Mr Thomson should not vote in Parliament while he continues to face allegations of misusing union members funds. Mr Slipper will not be voting in Parliament while the civil and criminal allegations against him are being dealt with.

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