Rudd had to quit: Saffin
KEVIN Rudd had no choice but to quit his job as Foreign Minister after senior Labor figures began publicly attacking him, Page MP Janelle Saffin said.
However Mr Rudd's surprise resignation late yesterday clears the way for him to openly canvass support for the Labor leadership.
Announcing his resignation, Mr Rudd said he would return home and seek the advice of family, colleagues and friends before deciding his next step.
"There is one overriding question for my caucus colleagues, and that is who is best placed to defeat Tony Abbott at the next election," Mr Rudd said.
But he added: "I promise you this - there is no way, no way, that I will ever be part of a stealth attack on a sitting prime minister elected by the people."
Ms Saffin said that meant if Mr Rudd chose to challenge for the leadership he would do it in the open.
"My interpretation is he will do exactly that. He'll talk with colleagues and his family and the community about whether he should do something else," Ms Saffin said.
"That could involve taking over as leader, but he's made it clear whatever he does won't be behind closed doors."
Whether he tried to get his old job back or not, Ms Saffin said Mr Rudd's position as Foreign Minister had been made "untenable" by attacks on him from within the senior ministry, notably from Regional Development Minister Simon Crean.
Earlier in the day, Ms Saffin had called on Mr Crean and other senior ministers to "back off" and focus on their jobs instead of fuelling leadership speculation.
"I'm frustrated," Ms Saffin said.
"I don't want them, my leaders, to keep focusing on the leadership when really they should be focused on what a disaster (Opposition Leader) Tony Abbott would be, because I see it up close.
"I think that senior ministers shouldn't come out with their six-gun pistols. They need to back off, they need to quieten it down and stop talking about it, keep doing their jobs and attacking Tony Abbott. That's what they need to do."
Neither Ms Saffin nor Richmond MP Justine Elliot yesterday was prepared to say who they would support in a leadership ballot. And, if shoppers around Lismore yesterday are any indication, many of their constituents are unlikely to care.
Political expert Dr Ros Irwin said the leadership debate appeared to have become a "feeding frenzy" within the media, fuelled by commentators' speculations and outbursts from MPs.
Dr Irwin agreed the debate was making it "extremely difficult" for Labor to govern effectively.
Suggestions Labor was on track to lose under Prime Minister Julia Gillard because of poor polling were hard to credit, with Dr Irwin noting it was impossible to say how Ms Gillard would be perceived by voters at an election that remains, at this stage, more than a year away.