Kevin Rudd says he didn't run for the Labor party leadership because he was told there was “zero” chance of winning a caucus ballot.
At a press conference in Brisbane today after three senior ministers had announced their resignations, Mr Rudd said that had he challenged he would have been attacked for going back on a promise made in February 2012 never to challenge again and “split the Labor Party right down the middle”.
He said he was advised in a meeting with supporters on Thursday that he did not have a majority of votes.
“I asked them 'what are the prospects of us obtaining a significant majority' - their collective response was zero,” he said.
"I asked them 'what are the prospects of us obtaining a majority' - to which their response was zero.”
Then, according to Mr Rudd, each told him “Kevin I believe you should not run”.
Mr Rudd said was time for the Labor party to “unite totally" behind Ms Gillard.
“... Julia Gillard, has my 100 per cent support,” he said.
“As I said in a written statement today, there are no circumstances under which I would return to the leadership of the Australian Labor Party in the future.”
He would, he said, continue to offer his services as the Federal member for Griffith.
Rudd backers Kim Carr, Martin Ferguson and Chris Bowen all resigned from the Cabinet today.
Senator Carr said that this week was the last opportunity to produce “a Labor team which ... would have the strongest possible opportunity for Labor to remain in government”.
“We have no option but to defend the caucus decision and work for the re-election of a Labor government under the present arrangements.”
Mr Ferguson, who was the minister for resources and energy, and for tourism, announced his resignation from Cabinet at a press conference in Canberra this afternoon.
Mr resigned earlier today as minister for tertiary education.
Simon Crean was sacked yesterday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who retained her leadership unopposed at a caucus meeting following Kevin Rudd's decision not to stand.
Mr Ferguson said he had come to his decision after considerable thought and had informed Ms Gillard of his intention.
“I have a view it is the only honourable thing to do,” he told reporters.
Mr Ferguson supported Mr Rudd's challenge in February last year, when he said he was worried about the direction of the party.
“For those reasons I would have voted for Kevin Rudd yesterday and Simon Crean (as deputy) to try and give this party a fresh start,” he said.
“Unfortunately the events of yesterday were not what we have hoped for. The caucus has made the decision. I respect that decision."
Mr Ferguson said that by resigning he was giving the Prime Minister and the ALP the opportunity to regain the Labor legacy of reform and embrace an approach which looked after all Australians.
“In doing so, seek the best position for the party I have been a member for 35 years to win the next election,” he said.
He also gave credit to Labor stalwart Mr Crean, who had planned to run for the deputy leader spot and called for the spill. “I thought what he did yesterday was courageous. It was about trying to give the party a fresh start,” he said.
“For this reason, I would have supported him.”
Mr Rudd said earlier today there are now “no circumstances” under which he would return to the Labor leadership.
He said through a spokesman that he had been consistent that he would not challenge for the leadership and that he would contest the next election as a local member of parliament.
“That position hasn't changed,” the spokesman said. “Furthermore, Mr Rudd wishes to make 100 per cent clear to all members of the parliamentary Labor Party, including his own supporters, that there are no circumstances under which he will return to the Labor Party leadership in the future.”
Ms Gillard said she accepted Mr Rudd's word on the leadership.
Yesterday she stared down another attempted Rudd comeback but the Labor Party is shattered after a day of division and chaos.
After Mr Crean spectacularly defected to Mr Rudd's camp and called for a leadership spill, the Prime Minister used question time to announce she would allow a ballot 2½ hours later.
Her manoeuvre caught the Rudd camp unprepared and the former PM baulked at the dare, declaring himself a non-starter eight minutes before deadline.
Ignoring the urgings of his backers, Mr Rudd said he would honour his word not to challenge for the leadership.
That left his backers exposed.
The Prime Minister sacked Mr Crean ahead of the leadership ballot.
Resignations followed last night, with Government Chief Whip Joel Fitzgibbon and other high-profile Rudd supporters, including parliamentary secretary Richard Marles and Whips Ed Husic and Janelle Saffin, resigned from their posts.Fronting the press this morning, Mr Bowen - widely regarded as one of the most capable operators in the federal Labor party - confirmed he would quit Cabinet, though would stay on as a backbencher to fight the next election.
There has also been reports that Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr had flipped to back Mr Rudd in recent weeks.
But he said this morning he had always supported the Prime Minister and would not be resigning.
"I have always said about politics that even though it takes you away from your children hopefully they can be proud of what you do," he said.
The Prime Minister said this morning she expected several of her cabinet members would be considering their positions.
“I anticipate there will be a few more people considering their position,” she told ABC radio in Melbourne.
“They will do that. I will also consider the view as to what is best for the government over coming months, for the nation over coming months.”
Ms Gillard said she had a ministerial reshuffle to deal with and would put together the “best team” to take the government to the September election.
Going into the caucus meeting yesterday, Mr Rudd said: "The only circumstances under which I would consider a return to the leadership would be if there was an overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party requesting such a return, drafting me to return, and the position was vacant," he said shortly before caucus met.
"I am here to inform you that those circumstances do not exist."
When caucus met, only Ms Gillard nominated for the prime ministership.
The Gillard camp had been confident it could withstand any challenge, putting her support before the meeting at 58 votes to Mr Rudd's 35, with nine waverers.
Mr Rudd's supporters, including Mr Fitzgibbon, earlier implored him to contest, telling him that the numbers would swing his way in a secret ballot.
But he refused their entreaties, saying he would run only if assured of winning more than 60 votes.
Mr Crean, who will now probably spend the rest of his parliamentary career on the backbench, could not disguise his anger at Mr Rudd for not contesting the ballot.
"I can't understand why all of this agitation would be on, including the need to bring it to a head, then for the pretender not to stump up," he said.
Mr Crean said he felt Mr Rudd had an obligation to run and should have taken the opportunity. He had no regrets about acting "in the interests of getting the party back on a solid footing".
Ms Gillard, who saw off a challenge from Mr Rudd last year 71 votes to 31, said the Labor leadership had now been settled "in the most conclusive fashion possible".
"The whole business is completely at an end. It has ended now," she said.
"I want to thank everyone for their continuing support of me, as just demonstrated in our Labor Party meeting.
"I accept their continuing support of me as Prime Minister and Labor leader with a sense of deep humility and a sense of resolve.
"I never sought office for its own sake. I have only ever sought office in the interests of the nation and to assist the nation to prepare to meet the challenges of the future.
"It is in that spirit that I intend to continue to govern.
"We've got a lot of work to do and we will continue to do it.
"Making sure Australians have got the benefit of jobs and opportunity. Making sure that in our nation we are getting ready for the future, rolling out the national broadband network and improving support for people with disabilities through our new scheme, Disability Care. Making sure, too, that we support modern families with the stresses and strains of everyday life and cost of living pressures.
"And above all ensuring that every Australian child gets a world-class education and a ticket to the future."
Special Minister of State, WA's Gary Gray, called on the destabilisation of Ms Gillard to cease immediately, saying it had caused "immense and enduring" damage.
"The events of today brought issues to a head and resolved it conclusively," Mr Gray said.
Mr Rudd's supporters acknowledged his failure to challenge had damaged him but said the former leader would remain an option for the party.
The Opposition sought to immediately capitalise on the leadership crisis, seeking to move a no confidence motion against Ms Gillard in the Lower House.
Leader Tony Abbott said Ms Gillard's prime ministership was on life support and it was time to bring it to an end.
Key independents Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor voted with the coalition to begin the no confidence motion but it failed to win sufficient support.
Mr Abbott urged the independents to bring down the Government.
"Nothing is resolved," he said.
"The civil war will continue as long as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are in the Parliament.The last hung parliament in Australia was brought down with a no confidence motion in 1941.
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