Julia Gillard has been sworn in as Australia’s first female prime minister after a surprise leadership vote in the ruling Labor Party ousted Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd chose not to take part in the ballot knowing he would suffer an embarrassing defeat to his deputy.
Ms Gillard said she believed “a good government was losing its way” and vowed to revive Labor ahead of a general election expected in October.
The party has suffered a sharp drop in support in opinion polls this year. A turn-around on a carbon trading scheme and a wrangle over a controversial mining tax led to a sharp slide in approval ratings for Mr Rudd’s government.
Ms Gillard, who was deputy prime minister before the surprise Wednesday night challenge to Mr Rudd, stood unopposed at a vote of the Labor Party’s 112 members of parliament at a meeting on Thursday morning.
Treasurer Wayne Swan was elected the new deputy leader, also unopposed.
Ms Gillard was born in Barry Island in south Wales, moving to Australia with her family at the age of four…
Mr Rudd, who led Labor to a landslide election victory against the Liberal government in 2007, blamed “a number of factional leaders” within the party for plotting against him.
Mr Rudd had initially insisted he would stand in the leadership ballot, but the BBC’s Nick Bryant in Australia said that by Thursday morning Mr Rudd could not even muster enough support to contend the ballot.
Mr Rudd started this year as the most popular Australian prime minister in three decades and was widely expected to win the federal election expected in October with ease. But his popularity plummeted following a number of policy setbacks, our correspondent adds.
He shelved the centrepiece of his environmental strategy, an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which led to accusations of political cowardice. Mr Rudd then entered into an advertising war with the country’s powerful mining sector over his plans for a super tax on their “super profits”.
- BBC News
KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: Welcome to the program.
Coming to you from Parliament House in Canberra.
What a moment in Australian political history: the first female Prime Minister; maybe even the first redhead.
This day was different in another sense too. Julia Gillard becomes the fifth leader within the two major parties in just one parliamentary term.
It was the day the famously controlled Kevin Rudd publicly displayed more raw, intense emotion than perhaps over his entire time as Prime Minister. This was a spectacular fall from grace – from a remarkable opinion poll-driven pedestal to a swift and ruthless despatch.
He’d lost his way, Julia Gillard now says, and the Government with him. Now she has a matter of months to recover enough of Labor’s fortunes to be competitive at the next election, and had only a brief wait for her first setback. Lindsay Tanner, one of Labor’s most respected and effective ministers, announced to the Parliament he would leave politics at the next election.
The 7.30 report biography of Gillard, From Ten Pound Pom to PM is viewable on the ABC website until 27 September.