Profiles of Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition Liberal party leader Tony Abbott are as follows:
Gillard, 48, is Australia's first female prime minister. Her early political career was forged by Labor's left wing, but her ascendancy to prime minister was the result of right-wing powerbrokers in the party. Seen as an economic conservative, she has promised to return the budget to surplus by 2012-13.
Arrived in Australia, aged four, in the 1960s from South Wales, the cradle of Britain's own Labor movement. Late British Labor politician Nye Bevan, a former Welsh coal miner and chief architect of the National Health Service, remains one of her political heroes.
Graduated with a law degree in 1986 from the University of Melbourne. Became involved in politics via the Labor Club at the University of Adelaide and then led the Australian Union of Students at Melbourne University.
Joined law firm Slater & Gordon, which specialises in class actions and personal-injury cases, in 1987 and became a partner at age 29 in 1990. Became a political adviser in the late 1990s and helped promote women in politics.
First elected to Parliament in 1998 and quickly rose to become a leading light of the Labor left, appointed shadow minister for population and immigration in 2001 and shadow health minister in 2003 and later became deputy Labor leader in 2006.
Appointed deputy prime minister in 2007 when Labor won office and became minister for education, Labor and social inclusion.
Toppled then prime minister Kevin Rudd on June 24, 2010 in a Labor party coup.
Quick-witted, with a broad Australian accent and a working-class pedigree, Gillard is in many ways an old-school Labor politician, more reminiscent of Labor prime ministers from the 80s and 90s.
Gillard is known as a strong negotiator with an ability to consider alternative views and draw rivals into agreement. She ended a politically damaging row with global miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tintoand Xstrata within days of being appointed prime minister by agreeing to water down a new resource tax.
A pugnacious and socially conservative Catholic, Abbott became leader of the Liberal-National coalition in 2009 by rallying opposition to a carbon trading scheme. He took over an opposition trailing in opinion polls but has reversed his party's fortunes and may return it to power after its 2007 defeat.
The London-born Abbott opposes a range of issues, including a push to make Australia a republic, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriages and carbon trading to combat climate change. His book on Australian conservative politics published in 2009 was titled 'Battlelines'.
Graduated from the University of Sydney with a law and economics degree. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, majoring in politics and philosophy, and won two Blue awards in boxing.
Trained to be a priest at St Patrick's Seminary, Sydney, in the mid-1980s. Abbott was later given the nickname 'The Mad Monk' by his political critics.
Journalist at Australia's now defunct 'The Bulletin' monthly news magazine and The Australian newspaper.
Press secretary and political adviser to the Liberal party's opposition leader, John Hewson, 1990-93.
Executive Director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy from 1993-94, opposing moves for Australia to become a republic and replace its constitutional monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, with an Australian president. He has written two books in defence of Australia's existing constitutional system, 'The Minimal Monarchy' and 'How to Win the Constitutional War'.
Entered Parliament in 1994. Minister for Employment Services in 1988 and promoted to cabinet as Minister for Employment, Labor and Small Business in 2001. Minister for Health and Ageing from 2003.
After the conservative government lost office in 2007, Abbott held a series of shadow ministerial roles ranging from housing to indigenous affairs.
In December 2009, became leader of the Liberal-National opposition coalition by rallying opposition to a carbon trading scheme to combat climate change
Abbott is a leading conservative intellectual who has steered conservative parties towards the right. He has pledged to dump the previous Labor government's new 30 percent mining tax, not introduce a carbon price, and introduce tougher border security by reopening South Pacific detention camps for boatpeople.
Compiled by: Kamna Arora
First Published: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 15:15