Michelle Grattan, Political Editor August 06, 2012
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon Photo: Andrew Meares
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Nicola Roxon has reaffirmed that she would never be part of a Rudd cabinet. She has also taken a public swipe at fellow cabinet minister Anthony Albanese over his comments about the case against Speaker Peter Slipper.
A week out from the start of a spring parliamentary session that is expected to see continued questioning of the Prime Minister's leadership, Ms Roxon said she was confident Julia Gillard would lead Labor to the election. And she stood by her view during the Kevin Rudd challenge early this year - when she was highly critical of the former prime minister's leadership style - that she would not serve on a Rudd front bench.
''I've made my views very clear. I didn't enjoy making them clear. We did that at a time when there was a challenge … There isn't a challenge that is on now.''
She said the Prime Minister was doing an ''amazing job'' in the face of a ''huge amount of headwind''.
Ms Roxon, interviewed on Sky, defended her own forthright comments on the Slipper case in the Federal Court, in which the Commonwealth is also a defendant. Staffer James Ashby has accused Mr Slipper of sexual harassment.
But asked about Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese's accusation that Coalition figures were ''up to their necks'' in a conspiracy against Mr Slipper, Ms Roxon said: ''Well look, some of the language Anthony used, I wouldn't have used.''
She said if a complaint was made in a very political setting, ''it's not unreasonable to be able to ask whether it is for a proper purpose or a political purpose … Now, I've made very clear that's what we're arguing in court.''
Ms Roxon also told the program that two referendums being considered - to give constitutional recognition to indigenous people and to recognise local government in the constitution - should not be put together.
She said that while the government was passionate about having the indigenous recognition referendum, ''ultimately, indigenous people have to be comfortable that it's the right time to do it''.
She was ''not quite'' yet at the position of thinking it needed to be deferred. It was a wait-and-see period while Reconciliation Australia conducted a community awareness campaign.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told Sky the indigenous referendum was ''something that we need to do. As usual, it'll be what's the detail, but … we in this team … would welcome that.''
On the other referendum, Ms Roxon said local government needed to make a decision about how engaged it would be.
The government was looking at the matter closely, including the implications of the recent High Court decision saying the way the chaplaincy program had been funded had not met the constitution's requirements, and would make a decision about the referendum in coming months. She did not think the referendum would necessarily be unpopular: ''I think the bigger risk is that it might be killed by apathy.''