A bungled attempt to woo Bob Carr to Canberra to serve as foreign minister has raised fresh concerns about Julia Gillard's authority, just days after her resounding victory in the leadership ballot.
Mr Carr, the former NSW premier, confirmed yesterday that he had been approached to fill the Senate vacancy created by the resignation of Mark Arbib, and that the offer included him serving as the minister for foreign affairs. The offer, he said, was made by ''party officers'', not Ms Gillard.
Fairfax online revealed on Tuesday that the offer was made by the NSW Labor general-secretary, Sam Dastyari, who rang Mr Carr after learning of Senator Arbib's resignation. Both the defence and foreign affairs portfolios were discussed and Mr Carr stipulated he wanted foreign affairs.
Mr Dastyari passed on to Ms Gillard's office that Mr Carr was interested and on Monday night, Ms Gillard rang Mr Carr ''two or three times''. A source said Ms Gillard did not have to repeat the offer because there was an implicit understanding that Mr Carr would be given foreign affairs.
His drafting had the support of senior ministers, including the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and the Finance Minister, Penny Wong, but was withdrawn on Tuesday morning amid internal objections.
Mr Carr, who was on standby to fly to Canberra for an announcement, was told by Mr Swan that the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, who was offered foreign affairs after Kevin Rudd resigned, resisted stepping aside.
In a statement last night, Mr Smith did not deny that he objected to Mr Carr's drafting.
In response to a direct question, his spokesman said only that portfolios were ''entirely a matter for the Prime Minister''.
There was deep frustration in Labor yesterday that so soon after the leadership ballot, the government was mired in another mess of its own making.
''This was an unalloyed good news story and we've managed to f--- it up,'' said a minister.
One MP who strongly backed Mr Rudd on Monday threw his hands in the air. ''Can't blame Rudd for this one,'' he said.
At first yesterday, Ms Gillard rejected that she had been rolled by the objections of Mr Smith and others. ''Of course my door is open to talk to people as I work my way through the reshuffle but the decisions are mine and I'll make them,'' she said.
After Mr Carr confirmed he had been made an offer, Ms Gillard, under questioning from the opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, said: ''Don't believe everything you read''.
Tony Abbott said Ms Gillard's newfound leadership authority had lasted just 24 hours.
''It's like being beaten up by Clark Kent,'' he said of her bowing to Mr Smith.