Penny Wong to Take Senate Plum Spot as SA Labor Don Farrell Relinquishes

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By Erik Pineda | October 30, 2012 12:56 PM EST

Labor Senator Don Farrell has relinquished the top senate spot in South Australia on Tuesday, saying his move should dispel suggestions that the ruling party is troubled by factionalism and sexism.

The gesture will propel Finance Minister Penny Wong to the number one position in Labor's senate ticket in the state, further lending prestige to one of the Gillard Cabinet's rising star, analysts said.

In an interview with ABC, the lesser known Senator Farrell described his decision to step aside in favour of Senator Wong as the "best thing I can do for the party right at the moment."

He added that unity within Labor would further shore up its chances of retaining government power after the 2013 federal election, alluding to recent poll numbers that pointed to the surging popularity of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Labor's rising primary votes.

Ms Gillard, the Labor right faction boss said, will likely lead the ruling party to victory next year and "I certainly don't want to be part of anything that detracts from the rise of the Labor Party between now and the next election."

"I want to be part of the team that gets (Ms Gillard) re-elected," said Senator Farrell, who was widely acknowledged as one of the key Labor powerbrokers that worked for the ouster of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010, paving the way for Ms Gillard's ascent.

The SA senator also dismissed insinuations from the Coalition that Labor stalwarts in the state were guilty of sexism in denying Senator Wong the senate top spot last week, insisting "I was the bloke who backed the first female prime minister of this country."

The prime minister has been made aware of his decision, Senator Farrell said, adding that he had discussed the matter with Ms Gillard yesterday.

In a reaction, Senator Wong said in a statement that the noble decision came from "a man of great standing."

"(Senator Farrell) has always put the Labor Party first and he has demonstrated that principle again today," the Labor frontbencher was quoted by ABC as saying on Tuesday.

She added that the government will further strive to realise "a fairer, stronger ... and more equal Australia," with close cooperation coming from all Labor members.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson viewed Senator Farrell's move as somewhat contradicting Labor's democratic process but nonetheless "a very magnanimous gesture, a generous gesture in many ways by Don."

"Both will be re-elected," Dr Emerson told Sky News today.

For Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, common sense prevailed as the door reopened for Senator Wong to be pushed up in the senate ticket noting that "it certainly is no shame being number two to Penny Wong."

"She's an outstanding economic minister - she's someone who was the Labor Party's spokesperson when we came to office in 2007 in that election campaign," Mr Albanese told ABC.

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