Gillard confident of win in contest against Rudd

Last Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 17:58

Sydney: On the eve of a crucial leadership
ballot, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday said she
was "very confident" of a win to end the bitter challenge
posed by Kevin Rudd and unite the ruling Labor party for the
2013 general election.

Gillard, who became Australia`s first woman Prime
Minister in June 2010 after she ousted Rudd, will face him in
a secret ballot for the leadership tomorrow after he
dramatically resigned as foreign minister while on a visit to
the United States. He announced on Friday that he would
challenge Gillard for the leadership post.

Soon after Rudd`s surprise resignation on Wednesday,
Gillard called a ballot on Monday to end the leadership
speculation "once and for all."

Gillard, 50, arrived in Canberra today with her partner
Tim Mathieson and said she was "very confident of the strong
support of my colleagues."

"I believe Labor, every one of us, will unite after
Monday`s ballot. We will unite tomorrow and we will get our
shoulders to the wheel delivering Labor`s programme and
plans," Gillard told reporters.

"The important thing is that tomorrow`s ballot ends this
-- there is a result and following that result everyone
accepts it and unites and gets on with the job and I am
absolutely confident that will happen."

Gillard added she remained "convinced" that Labor could
defeat Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at an election in 2013.

Meanwhile, Rudd, 54, today maintained he was the party`s
best chance of winning the next election, but pledged to
support Gillard if he was rejected by caucus.

"If Julia Gillard is returned on Monday then she will
have my unequivocal support between now and the next election
because we have interests way beyond individuals here," he
told Channel Nine.

Rudd said reports that he called the Prime Minister a
"childless, atheist, former Communist" in Adelaide were wrong.

"I don`t have any recollection of having said anything
of the sort," he said.

Rudd said his hand was forced into his dramatic
resignation from the foreign affairs portfolio in Washington
as Gillard refused to "repudiate" comments made against him by
senior ministers.

The former prime minister revisited the painful history
that saw him deposed in 2010 and said he was given no warning
that he was at risk of losing the party`s confidence because
his colleagues believed he was running a paralysed and chaotic
government.

Rudd said he was doing his "absolute best" to steer
Australia through the ravages of the global financial crisis
and that his closest confidantes had ample opportunity to
raise their concerns.

Meanwhile, based on current declarations of support in
the 103-member caucus, The Australian newspaper said it
believes Gillard has the backing of 67 members to Rudd`s 31,
with five MPs still undecided.

The Gillard camp believes the Prime Minister will
receive up to 75 votes, while Rudd supporters say he is likely
to end up with about 35 votes.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 17:58

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