Elliot right ?not to declare hand

By STEPHANIE FORESTER and AAP

THE ALP's newly-elected Richmond MP, Justine Elliot, remained tight-lipped last night about who she'll vote for in the upcoming ALP leadership showdown.

And Byron Shire's ALP councillor Ray Kestle says he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Justine should wait until the nominations are in (before she declares her hand)," Cr Kestle said.

"It's hard to declare who you're behind when you don't know who's in the race."

Unlike Byron Shire locals polled by The Northern Star yesterday, Cr Kestle has faith in the ALP parliamentary Caucus to sort it out.

"I think the Federal Caucus will come up with the right person for the job," he said.

"Personally, I don't have a strong preference for the leadership, but I'm very sad that Mark Latham's health has caused him to resign from his seat. He must be very ill."

That said, Cr Kestle believes Kim Beazley will get the party's top job.

"There's all sorts of scuttlebutt going around, but to be honest I think Kim Beazley may be the only person realistically in the running," he said. "I think Justine is being appropriately cautious at this stage."

The Labor leadership race developed into a three-way tussle yesterday, with rising star Julia Gillard refusing to rule out taking on Kim Beazley for the job.

As Mr Beazley stepped up his campaign with a trip to Sydney to lobby colleagues, Ms Gillard arrived back in Australia after cutting short an overseas holiday following Mark Latham's resignation due to ill-health.

But she refused to say whether she planned to challenge for the top job, saying she wanted to talk to her Caucus colleagues first.

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, in Indonesia to observe tsunami relief efforts, has also refused to outline his position.



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