Rudd ousts Australia PM Gillard in leadership vote

Ex-PM backed by Labor MPs hoping to avoid huge defeat in September election

Prime Minister Julia Gillard during question time in Canberra, Australia. Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Prime Minister Julia Gillard during question time in Canberra, Australia. Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 13:58

Australia is set to have a new prime minister after Julia Gillard lost a battle for the leadership of the ruling Labor Party to her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

He was voted in by MPs hoping to avoid a huge defeat in upcoming elections. The ballot took place on three years and two days after Ms Gillard removed Mr Rudd in a similar internal government showdown. It makes him leader of the party, but not prime minister.

Ms Gillard lostby 57 votes to 45. Mr Rudd will have to demonstrate that he can command a majority in the House of Representatives before the governor-general makes him prime minister.

If he cannot, opposition leader Tony Abbott could be asked to form a government or the elections could be moved up from September to August.

Ms Gillard called a ballot for the leadership on a day of high drama in which supporters of Mr Rudd circulated a petition to Caucus members seeking a ballot. Ms Gillard put her political career on the line for the vote, saying that whoever loses should retire from parliament immediately.

“First and foremost, anybody who believes they should be Labor leader should put themselves forward for this ballot,” Ms Gillard said.

“There are no more opportunities. Tonight is the night. This is it.

“Number two, because politics is not about personality, all of these issues need to be resolved tonight.”

Mr Rudd said he wanted to respond to the public call for him to stand to prevent opposition leader Tony Abbott from becoming prime minister.

“It’s your voices, the voices of the Australian people ... that have had a huge effect on me more so than most of the voices I happen to hear around the corridors of this building,” he said.

This week is the last sitting week for Australia’s federal parliament before the September election, and the last realistic chance for Labor MPs to decide who will lead the party to the election.

Labor is far behind the Liberal-National opposition in all polling and is expected to lose by a landslide in the election. However, some polls say Labor would fare dramatically better if Mr Rudd was leader.

Two independents who help keep the minority Labor government in power earlier today both announced they would not stand in the coming election. They said Labor could not take their votes for granted if there is a change in leadership today.

Additional reporting AP

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