Crean refused PM's order to resign

A letter from Prime Minister Julia Gillard to Governor-General Quentin Bryce, written moments after then-Labor cabinet minister Simon Crean called for a Labor leadership spill in March, details how Ms Gillard purged Mr Crean from her ministry after Mr Crean refused her order to resign.

The letter, obtained by The Australian, requests that the Governor-General terminate Mr Crean's commission after Mr Crean refused to resign.

The newspaper reported that Ms Gillard watched Mr Crean's hastily-organised scrum on television at about 1pm on March 21, and was enraged by Mr Crean's call for a leadership spill, and his unexpected announcement that he would back Kevin Rudd and put himself forward as Mr Rudd's deputy if he were to beat Ms Gillard in a caucus leadership vote.

After watching the scrum, Ms Gillard reportedly directed her chief of staff, Ben Hubbard, to obtain Mr Crean's resignation, which Mr Crean refused to do.

A letter was then prepared for the Governor-General recommending the termination of Mr Crean's commission and at about 1:45pm, minutes before the start of question time, Ms Gillard called Mr Crean, informing him she would sign the letter immediately if he did not offer to resign.

“No,” Mr Crean responded, according to The Australian.

“I'm not giving you my resignation because this outcome is yet to be determined. I will not resign on your terms. If you call a leadership spill, and you are supported, I will resign. But not before.”

Ms Gillard then informed Mr Crean that she had signed the letter, would ask for his termination from the Governor-General and that the whip would give him a backbench seat.

The newspaper also reported that Mr Crean met with Ms Gillard the night before the drama, for a wide-ranging conversation about the position of the government where she refused to call a leadership spill, saying Mr Rudd should challenge her if he wanted to take another run at the leadership.