Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to run a tighter cabinet if Labor is re-elected, warning that any minister caught leaking information will be sacked immediately.
The tough talk came as Ms Gillard continued to face questions over leaks from within the government’s senior ranks that have threatened to derail her election campaign.
Ms Gillard, who on Wednesday gave a spirited defence against allegations she opposed key welfare reforms as a member of Kevin Rudd’s cabinet, said she would not tolerate rats in the ranks.
“If there’s anyone in my government if re-elected that does not respect the confidentiality of cabinet, then they will no longer be a minister,” she said in Melbourne on Thursday.
The prime minister was forced into damage control earlier this week following allegations she opposed a rise in the age pension and Labor’s paid parental leave scheme – claims which she has rejected.
While the source of the leaks has not been identified, and despite public denials from senior Labor figures, many in the party privately believe Kevin Rudd is the person most likely to be the culprit.
The latest leak, revealed by Nine Network’s Laurie Oakes on Tuesday, follows another from him two weeks ago in which it was claimed Ms Gillard reneged on a leadership deal with Mr Rudd the night before she replaced him as Labor leader.
Mr Rudd has denied being the source of the leaks.
Ms Gillard maintains her predecessor will be offered a senior frontbench position if Labor is returned to power and continues to play down speculation Mr Rudd, who has chosen not to campaign on national issues, is working against her.
“Kevin Rudd is honourable. He’s working hard for his local community,” she said.
But there are growing concerns in Labor about the likelihood of further damaging disclosures during the election campaign.
Treasurer Wayne Swan has conceded there was little that could be done to stop further leaks.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Labor was disintegrating.
“What she was confronted with yesterday was evidence of an active campaign against her from the heart of her own government,” he said.