Australian PM says failed coup 'appalling', reshuffles Cabinet

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday accused her Labor party of self-indulgence after a farcical leadership coup against her, saying she was "appalled" by the events in an election year.

In announcing a Cabinet reshuffle after several key ministers backed former prime minister Kevin Rudd to take her job, the nation's first woman leader admitted that "while purpose has driven us on, unity has eluded us".

"And that unity spectacularly eluded us last week," she told reporters.

"Like Australians around the nation, I was appalled by the events of last week. My political party, the Labor party that I love very dearly, was self-indulgent. Our eyes were on ourselves rather than... being focused on the nation."

The centre-left party has been riven by infighting as it slumps in opinion polls to lows from which it is widely seen as near-impossible to win the September 14 national election.

Several cabinet members who lost confidence in Ms Gillard had pushed for a return to Mr Rudd's leadership given his enduring popularity with the electorate.

A leadership vote was called but Mr Rudd failed to stand and has since said he will never challenge again.

"It was an unseemly display but out of that has come clarity," Ms Gillard said.

"It is now very clear indeed that I have the confidence of my colleagues to lead. The leadership contest that has been within Labor is over."

In the fallout, Mr Martin Ferguson and Mr Chris Bowen resigned as ministers for resources and tertiary education respectively, while Mr Simon Crean, who held the portfolios of arts and regional development, was sacked for calling the leadership challenge.

The ructions forced Ms Gillard to shake-up her Cabinet, her second reshuffle in as many months, with former adviser to oil and gas company Woodside, Gary Gray, named as Mr Ferguson's replacement.

Environment Minister Tony Burke was given responsibility for the arts portfolio while Trade Minister Craig Emerson took on the added duties of tertiary education.

Mr Matt Thistlethwaite will become parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs, replacing Mr Richard Marles who quit after supporting Mr Rudd.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese was promoted despite being a Rudd confidant, adding regional development to his responsibilities.