By Angela Dorizas
Julia Gillard has become Australia’s first female Prime Minister, following a successful leadership challenge against Kevin Rudd.
Labor MPs and senators gathered at Parliament House this morning for a ballot to decide which leader would take them to the next federal election.
Labor Party whip Senator Michael Forshaw emerged from the caucus meeting just after 9.30AM EST to announce that Rudd had pulled out of the ballot, clearing the way for Ms Gillard to take the leadership.
Treasurer Wayne Swan was also elected unopposed as Deputy Prime Minister.
In a statement to the media, Ms Gillard said she accepted her party endorsement to take the leadership.
“I asked my colleagues to make a leadership change…because I believed a good government was losing its way,” she said.
“Ultimately, Kevin Rudd and I disagreed about the direction of the Government.
“I take my fair share for the Rudd Government’s record – for our important achievements and the errors made.”
Ms Gillard announced that in the coming months she would ask the Governor General to call a general election, indicating that workplace relations would be a policy priority in Labor's campaign.
“I believe in a government that rewards those that work the hardest, not those who complain the loudest,” she said.
Ms Gillard gave credit to Mr Rudd for leading the nation through the global financial crisis, describing him as a “remarkable leader”.
She said she was dedicated to serving Australia.
“I am truly honoured to lead this country which I love,” Ms Gillard said.
“I am utterly committed to the service of our people.”
Ms Gillard will be sworn in as Prime Minister this afternoon.
The fall of Rudd
Following weeks of speculation over the Labor Party leadership, Mr Rudd announced last night that Gillard had challenged him to a ballot.
“It's important, I believe, in the interests of the party and the government for these matters to be resolved as a matter of urgency,” he said last night.
“We've gone into some heavy weather of late and a few people have become, shall I say, a little squeamish at that.
“I'm not for getting squeamish about those things, I am about continuing the business of reform and providing good strong proper government for the people of Australia, the people of Australia who elected me as Prime Minister.”
In a very emotional address this morning, Mr Rudd announced that he would stay on in Parliament and recontest his seat of Griffith at the next election.
“I will be dedicating my every effort to ensure the re-election of this Australian Labor government,” he said.
“It is a good government with a good program and it deserves re-election.”
Mr Rudd indicated that he was willing to take on a frontbench position.
“As for serving this government in the future, I will of course serve it in any manner in which I can be of assistance,” he said.
Choking back tears, Mr Rudd said he had given it his “absolute all” and listed his key achievements.
"I was elected by the Australian people as the prime minister … to bring back a fair go for all Australians," he said.
"I have given my absolute best to do that.
“It is a high honour to be elected prime minister of Australia."
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Congratulations to the new Prime Minister. As an Emily's member and a person who has the honour of being the first Indigenous woman elected to an Australian Parliament, I am proud today to be an Australian, and a Labor Party member.
Kevin Rudd, has done a great job, at a very difficult time in our global history, and his need for certainty drove him to bring about this leadership change.
The behaviour of the mining companies has been appalling, and regardless of their responsibility to their shareholders, it was true to say that their responsibility to their host country is questionable.
Political instability is just one weapon used by multinationals, and I am disappointed to say, as a person who lives in a democracy that these third world smear tactics are also successful in a country like Australia – shame on you.
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