Melbourne: Taking up the gauntlet, former
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today said he will
contest against Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Monday's
leadership vote, as the two bitter rivals sparred publicly
escalating the row within the ruling Labor party.
"Rightly or wrongly, Julia (Gillard) has lost the trust
of the Australian people. And starting on Monday I want to
start restoring that trust," 54-year-old Rudd told a press
conference, ending days of speculation about his intention to
challenge the Prime Minister following his dramatic
resignation on Wednesday in the US during an official trip.
Soon after Rudd's surprise resignation Wednesday, Gillard
called a ballot on Monday to end the leadership speculation
"once and for all."
"And that is why I've decided to contest the leadership
of the Labor Party," Rudd said.
"It's no secret that our government has a lot of work to
do if it is to regain the confidence of the Australian
people," he said.
"Starting on Monday, I'm going to start restoring that
trust," he said.
Within hours, Gillard, Australia's first woman Prime
Minister, responded to declare that she was the best person to
lead the party to victory in the next election.
"Talk is easy. Getting things done is harder and I am the
person who get things done," 50-year-old Gillard said.
Asked to comment on Rudd's resignation and his suggestion
that she had lost the trust of Australian voters, Gillard
said: "Australians can have confidence in me that no matter
how hard it gets, I've got the determination and personal
fortitude to see things through."
She was confident that she had the support of the
103-strong Labor caucus to continue as Prime Minister.
"I am confident I can lead Labor to a victory at the next
election," Gillard said.
"This is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, this is
about who should be Prime Minister," she said, adding that her
colleagues needed to decide "who's got the strength, the
temperament, the character, the courage to lead this nation."
Gillard came to power in June 2010 after launching her
own leadership challenge against Rudd, who was then Prime
Minister. At the time, she was his deputy and justified the
move by claiming "the government was losing its way."
Rudd had become Prime Minister after defeating the then
Liberal Prime Minister John Howard in a general election in
2007. It was Labor's first win since 1996.
Earlier, Rudd, while announcing his resignation, attacked
Gillard-led government for its poor relations with business
and criticised a number of policy decisions made since he lost
the Prime Ministership.
First Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 18:26