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Divisions renewed in Australia's fractured ruling party

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An ex-Australian minister behind last month's failed coup against Julia Gillard accused the Prime Minister of being divisive and media-driven in an interview Saturday, reviving ruling party tensions.

Former arts minister Simon Crean, a veteran and past leader of the Labor party, condemned Gillard as having a "real tin ear" on political strategy in a damning break with earlier vows of unity following the March machinations.

Crean was instrumental in last month's leadership challenge, demanding that Gillard put the prime ministership to a party vote and encouraging former PM Kevin Rudd to stand against her.

Rudd -- deposed by Gillard in a ruthless ouster ahead of the 2010 election -- refused to run and the episode fizzled out, further damaging Labor's already-tarnished brand with voters just months away from the September polls.

Crean fell in behind Gillard after the botched vote despite being sacked for disloyalty, but he broke with calls for unity Saturday in a scathing assessment of the prime minister.

"(Rudd) was just arrogant but she's got a tin ear. She sits there and listens but it doesn't translate," Crean told Fairfax newspapers.

"Because somewhere along the way she gets the word that here's the angle on how you get tomorrow's headline."

The conservative opposition condemned the remarks as further evidence of "anarchy" within centre-left Labor's ranks.

"The country cannot go on like this, it has to turn around," said conservative Senator Barnaby Joyce. "We must get the show back on the rails."

Crean accused Gillard of "class warfare" in her policies on immigration and said she was deliberately divisive, including on gender issues.

"It's easier to relate with one side against the other rather than get out there and try and cohere around a message that seeks to persuade in the national interest," he said.

Gillard shot to global fame last year with a speech accusing conservative leader Tony Abbott of misogyny and sexism, video of which went viral online.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson, a Gillard ally, said Crean had voiced such views in the past and "we're talking about the future... and I'm quite sure that that's what the Australian people want to discuss."

"My interest and the interest of the government is in the future," Emerson told reporters.

Gillard's Labor will be chasing a third term when Australia goes to the polls on September 14. Opinion surveys suggest a win is increasingly out of reach, with both the prime minister and her party deeply unpopular.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130413/divisions-renewed-australias-fractured-ruling-party