Julia Gillard is determined to get the Gillard government underway, but Kevin Rudd is hanging around, making it difficult.

Gillard announced her cabinet changes yesterday, with Simon Crean to get her old portfolio of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations while Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will pick up the Trade portfolio.

But Kevin Rudd was desperate for the Foreign Affairs portfolio, outlining his offer to serve the government in his final press conference as PM and apparently calling Gillard to ask for the portfolio immediately.

As soon as the cabinet reshuffle was announced, Rudd released a statement saying “I would be prepared to serve the government in an appropriate way in the future and that I would do so in the interests of the government and the country. I have indicated to the Prime Minister in subsequent discussions that this remains my position.”

Gillard has said Rudd would get a front bench position once the government has been re-elected.

What should Gillard do with Rudd? Is it the best move for the Gillard government to keep the disposed leader off the front bench until after the election? Will he get the foreign ministry? And perhaps more importantly, can Rudd take the hint and make himself scarce in the meantime?

As Bernard Keane wrote yesterday on The Stump:

… his omission now creates the same problem for Julia Gillard that Malcolm Turnbull created for Tony Abbott when he decided to remain in Parliament — if he is to serve after the election, which frontbencher will lose their spot to him? At least Gillard is losing Lindsay Tanner, thereby creating a senior vacancy, but there will be more junior performers who think they have as much entitlement to Tanner’s position as their former leader.

The Australian

Dennis Shanahan: Cabinet door had to be bolted

Sensitive to the criticism that she had been acting murderously at the behest of factional warlords, Gillard tried to soften the extra blow to her fallen colleague but she couldn’t hide it.

Politically, Gillard did the right thing: she faced an inherently distracted and divided cabinet with Rudd at the table and an impossible task of dumping policies the former prime minister championed with him in the room and in the picture.

Editorial: Time out for Kevin may signal game on

His relegation to the back bench may upset some who feel he has been shoddily treated, but Mr Rudd could benefit from time to reflect upon his own need to demonstrate collegiality and loyalty.

The Age

Tony Wright: Rejected man rattles his cage

You hardly needed to be a code breaker to detect the depth of his displeasure.

Michelle Grattan: The odd couple bide their time

If Labor is re-elected, Foreign Affairs – what he wants – would surely be appropriate for Rudd.

The Daily Telegraph

Malcolm Farr: Deposed prime minister Kevin Rudd baffles colleagues on Cabinet bid

But Labor figures, including the many genuinely concerned about his future, are baffled by his determination to stay in Parliament. It could be he is doing the right thing by not causing a by-election in Griffith which might embarrass Labor.

Simon Benson: Kevin Rudd lost top job as prime minister and his dignity

But you would have thought that for the sake of his own dignity, he should consider leaving politics altogether.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey