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Rudd cancels appearance to save spotlight for Gillard

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Australian Financial Review chief political correspondent

View more articles from Phillip Coorey

Declined ... Kevin Rudd chose not to appear at an event in Darling Harbour. Above, Mr Rudd surrounded by members of the Chinese community last week.

Declined ... Kevin Rudd chose not to appear at an event in Darling Harbour. Above, Mr Rudd surrounded by members of the Chinese community last week. Photo: Ben Rushton

KEVIN RUDD pulled out of an event with Sydney's Chinese community yesterday to avoid criticism of overshadowing Julia Gillard's launch of the Australia in the Asian Century white paper.

Mr Rudd had accepted an invitation to be guest speaker at the event at Darling Harbour, but withdrew when the Prime Minister announced last Tuesday that she would be launching the white paper yesterday.

Mr Rudd was to appear with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, and the former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke at the event, which celebrated 40 years of diplomatic ties between Australia and China.

A source close to Mr Rudd said he did not want to alienate colleagues.

With Parliament resuming today, ill-feeling over the leadership has been stoked by the book Tales From the Political Trenches by the former journalist and Labor MP Maxine McKew.

The book has dredged up events surrounding Mr Rudd's ouster as prime minister in June 2010, and painted Ms Gillard as a treacherous deputy.

Despite laying low, Mr Rudd still managed to provide a distraction yesterday, when a written response he sent to Ms McKew was published in The Sunday Telegraph. In it, Mr Rudd contends he had no plans to be a long-serving prime minister and was going to hand the leadership to Ms Gillard.

Ms Gillard had no comment on the claim, which was backed by one minister who said it was common knowledge.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said the Labor leadership had become a "soap opera'' and people were sick of it.

"The only way to end the soap opera is to change the government and give the Labor Party a stint in opposition to work it out,'' Mr Abbott said.

There is further unrest ahead inside Labor, with a senior minister, Anthony Albanese, refusing to accept the decision by the South Australian Labor Party on Saturday to put the little-known senator Don Farrell ahead of the Finance Minister, Penny Wong, on the Senate ticket.

The order was decided along factional lines; Senator Farrell is in the Right faction and Senator Wong the Left. Previously, ministers have been given precedence on Senate tickets, regardless of their faction.

Mr Albanese said it sent a poor message to voters who do not understand or care for factionalism and was unprecedented in the ALP. It is understood Ms Gillard, who was at the SA Labor conference, was reluctant to intervene.

Mr Abbott may face a test of internal loyalty this week, with several of his MPs threatening to abstain or cross the floor to pass a bill deregulating the wheat market.

However, Labor may have the numbers to pass the bill through the lower house, leaving the battle for the Senate, where Liberal support will be needed.

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