CANBERRA, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Australia's ruling party leadership battle took a new toll as Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism Martin Ferguson resigned from Prime Minister Julia Gillard's cabinet.
Ferguson made the announcement in Canberra on Friday. He's the second cabinet minister to stand down on Friday after Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Bowen announced his resignation earlier this morning.
Both are supporters of former party leader and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Ferguson supported Rudd's challenge of Gillard's leadership in February last year, when he said he was worried about the direction of the party.
"For those reasons I would have voted for Kevin Rudd yesterday and Simon Crean (as deputy) to try and give this party a fresh start," he said at a press conference Friday afternoon.
"Unfortunately the events of yesterday were not what we have hoped for."
Labor Party elder Crean, who first called for a leadership spill on Thursday morning, was immediately sacked as Minister for Regional Affairs and Arts by Gillard, who retained her leadership unopposed at a caucus meeting following Rudd's decision not to stand.
Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles quitted his cabinet post after the caucus meeting Thursday afternoon. Government chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon and two other government whips, Ed Husic and Janelle Saffin, also resigned on Friday and Thursday evening.
Ferguson said by resigning he was giving the prime minister and the party the opportunity to regain the Labor legacy of reform and embrace an approach which looked after all Australians.
Ferguson is one of the only ministers to have remained in the same portfolio since the election of the Rudd government in 2007.
He said he would stand for election for his seat of Batman in September and remain in parliament for the full term if elected.
Ferguson also warned that if Labor didn't change it would face a wipeout in the September federal election similar to that of 1996, when the John Howard coalition government was elected.
With three cabinet ministers quitting, Gillard is forced to make another substantial government reshuffle in less than two months. On February 2, then Attorney-General and Minister for Energy Management Nicola Roxon and Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Evan resigned.