Rudd allies prepared to remain on frontbench

The ministers who have backed Kevin Rudd in today's ballot say they are prepared to stay on the frontbench should Julia Gillard want them.

Apart from the senior minister Anthony Albanese, who is expected to keep all his duties, Ms Gillard was tight-lipped on the future of the other four, all of whom have said Kevin Rudd is Labor's best hope of winning the next election.

While she is not expected to announce any decisions before the ballot, she will definitely need a new minister for foreign affairs, because Kevin Rudd will stay on the backbench. Sources say the position will be filled by either the Trade Minister Craig Emerson or the Defence Minister Stephen Smith. Mr Smith held the job when Mr Rudd was prime minister but stepped aside to accommodate Mr Rudd after he was deposed.

Ms Gillard is expected to win today's leadership ballot emphatically. In the bitter run-up to the ballot, five of the 30 ministers, including four within cabinet, backed Mr Rudd, saying he was Labor's best hope of winning the next election.

The most senior of the defectors, Mr Albanese, backed Mr Rudd on Saturday. He was always unhappy with the coup to replace Mr Rudd in June 2010 and, on Thursday night last week, he balloted members in his inner-west seat of Grayndler. They were overwhelmingly in favour of switching to Mr Rudd.

Mr Albanese holds the Infrastructure and Transport portfolios and is the government leader in the House. He offered to resign all positions but Ms Gillard rejected his resignation, meaning he will stay. More unclear are the futures of the other four - Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, Housing Minister Robert McClelland, Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson and Manufacturing Minister, Kim Carr.


Senator Carr is perceived to be the most vulnerable. In the pre-Christmas reshuffle, Ms Gillard tried to oust him from the ministry altogether but he hung on to secure an outer ministry portfolio. Senator Carr said yesterday he would like to stay.

''I'm no dummy-spitter,'' he said. ''But the call is entirely hers.''

Mr Ferguson is another believed to be at risk. Asked if he could serve under Ms Gillard, he said: ''I will always serve the Labor Party''.

Mr Ferguson was furious at the bad-mouthing of Mr Rudd by Gillard supporters and suggested his was the lesser offence.

''People ought to look at themselves as a result of how some presented themselves over the last week,'' he said.

''It's been a disgrace. Our collective responsibility is to pull together and move on.''

Mr Bowen repeated yesterday that he would vote for Mr Rudd because ''he represents the best chance for a Labor victory at the next election''.

However, while Mr Rudd has declared Labor would lose under Ms Gillard, Mr Bowen said it still had a chance.

The big losers are Mr Rudd's staff, many of whom would find themselves without a job.

While most policy advisers will be absorbed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the political staff face uncertain futures.