Australian PM defends rocky year in office

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today marked the anniversary of her rise to power.

Updated: Jun 24, 2011, 11:24 AM IST

Sydney: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday marked the anniversary of her rise to power, defending her performance and saying she never meant to mislead voters on a carbon tax.

Gillard, Australia`s first female prime minister, ousted Kevin Rudd in a Labor Party coup on June 24, 2010 -- a date the conservative opposition has labelled "assassination day" -- after Rudd fell foul of factional bosses.

Rudd was flagging in the polls at the time, but Gillard`s government has slumped even lower, with Labor`s primary vote now down to just 27 percent after Gillard back flipped on an election promise not to bring in a pollution tax.

Gillard defended her position on Friday, saying she did not mean to be misleading when she had said during the campaign there would be no carbon tax under the government she led.

"I`ve explained of course to the Australian people that I never meant to mislead anybody during the last election campaign about carbon pricing," Gillard told ABC Radio on Friday.

The Prime Minister said she had always believed the best way of putting a price on carbon was a cap-and-trade scheme rather than a tax, but had not foreseen that a levy would be necessary for the first three to five years.

"So yes, the route to the objective is different," she said.

"When I said those words during the election campaign I didn`t mean to mislead anybody and I understand that people heard those words and they look at what`s happening now and they perhaps look at me and say, `well, what`s going on, what did she mean then, what does she mean now?`," Gillard said.

"Well, what I meant then and what I mean now is climate change is real. We`re up to tackling it. We`re a nation that can tackle the big reforms. The big reform we need to reduce carbon pollution is to put a price on carbon."

Gillard, who took the leadership pledging to address climate change, broker a tax on mining profits and tackle the sensitive issue of boatpeople, said her government was confronting tough reforms that had resulted in "some anxiety".

"But can I certainly say this; anybody who thinks that I am going to fold because it is a bit tough out there has got me wrong, absolutely wrong," she said.

"We are doing these tough reforms because they are right for the country`s future."

Bureau Report