Australia’s former foreign minister Kevin Rudd said on Friday he would contest a leadership vote against Prime Minister Julia Gillard,bringing to a head the bitter leadership fight engulfing the minority government.
Rudd,who was ousted by Gillard in June 2010,said he was the best person to lead the governing Labor Party into the next election,due in late 2013.
Rightly or wrongly Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people and starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust,Rudd told reporters in his home town of Brisbane.
I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when they elected me to become prime minister.
Gillard has called a leadership vote for Monday after Rudd suddenly quit as foreign minister on Wednesday,hoping the early vote would enable her to stamp her authority over the governing Labor Party and head off Rudd’s hopes of building support.
The leadership crisis was prompted by poor opinion polls which show the government would be decimated at the next election.
Gillard’s supporters say she has clear majority support within the Labor Party and that she would easily win a leadership showdown against Rudd. She has called on Rudd to abandon any leadership ambitions if he loses.
Polls show Rudd remains more popular with voters,and he has called for Australians to get behind his campaign to return as prime minister.
Rudd said he would remain in parliament and would not mount a second challenge if he loses on Monday.
A surprise Rudd victory on Monday could spark an early election,as there is no guarantee he will win the backing of key independents needed to control a majority in parliament. That,in turn,would risk major reforms,including a carbon tax and a 30 percent tax on coal and iron ore mines.
Opinion polls show the conservative opposition would easily win an election,and opposition leader Tony Abbott has promised to scrap the carbon tax and mining tax if he wins office.
Gillard earlier told reporters that she had the strength,temperament,courage and character to lead Australia,and that she pushed through major reforms which Rudd failed to introduce.
This is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother,this is about who should be prime minister,Gillard said.
Gillard replaced Rudd in an internal coup in June 2010 and then went on to win dead heat elections,forming a minority government with support of the Greens and independent lawmakers.
Rudd said Gillard had betrayed him in 2010,backing down on an agreement to give him more time to restore Labor’s poll standing while secretly plotting with faction leaders to replace him.
I seem to remember someone putting their hand on their heart for about three months in the lead up to June 2010,saying that she would never ever challenge for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party,Rudd said of Gillard.
If he wins the leadership vote,Rudd would need to renegotiate agreements with the Greens and at least two independents to ensure he could control a majority in parliament.
There are few major policy differences between Rudd and Gillard,although Rudd has said he would do more to build business confidence in Australia,help manufacturers,and focus on health and education.
Gillard and senior cabinet ministers,including Treasurer Wayne Swan,have criticised Rudd’s time as prime minister between 2007 and mid 2010 as dysfunctional.