Julia Gillard is Australia's first woman PM


Prime VIP
* 49-year-old gets elected unopposed as Labour leader after a tearful Kevin Rudd steps down

* Gillard had spearheaded a rebellion against Rudd, opposing his policies on health, education

Melbourne, June 24

Julia Gillard today scripted history when she was sworn in as Australia's first woman Prime Minister after a tearful Kevin Rudd stepped down following a sudden revolt against him within the ruling Labour Party.

Fortynine-year-old Gillard was sworn in by Australia's first female Governor-General Quentin Bryce at the Government House in Canberra. Gillard had spearheaded the rebellion against 51-year-old Rudd, opposing his policies on health, education and climate change.

She said she had asked her colleagues to make a leadership change "because I believed that a good government was losing its way." Health and education services, and fair treatment at work were at risk at the next election, she said.

After taking over, Gillard said she was not a "political rookie" and promised to lead a strong and responsible government that would take control of Australia's future. Gillard had been deputy to former prime minister Rudd since their Labour Party swept to power in a landslide election victory in 2007.

Earlier, Gillard was elected as Labour leader unopposed at a ballot held this morning after Rudd stood aside with tears in his eyes.

Rudd acknowledged that the party's factional leaders had lost faith in him and did not contest the leadership, leaving Gillard to be elected unopposed.

Rudd had been rated high in opinion polls as one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made major policy changes, including a decision in April to shelve plans to make Australia's worst polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions.

Addressing a press conference, Gillard said she was "truly honoured" to become Prime Minister and lead Australia.

"Can I say Australians one and all, it's with the greatest, humility, resolve and enthusiasm that I sought the endorsement of my colleagues to be the Labour leader and to be the Prime Minister for this country," she said.

Gillard said Australia would go to the polls within months. "In the coming months, I will ask the Governor-General to call a general election so that the Australian people can exercise their birthright and choose their Prime Minister."

"I am utterly committed to the service of our people," she said, adding: "I believe we had, on a set of issues, not delivered the kind of stability and certainty and good management that Australians would seek."

"It is my intension as Prime Minister to lead a government that draws on the best efforts of my Cabinet and ministerial colleagues," she said, but denied she was beholden to Labour's factional bosses, pointing out that she was no political rookie and had been in Canberra since 1998.

Gillard said she was well aware she was the first woman to step into the top job. "First woman, maybe first redhead, we'll allow others to delve into the history and I'll allow you to contemplate which was more unlikely in the modern age," she said.

"I would defy anyone, anyone, to analyse my parliamentary career and to suggest that on any day I have done anything other than made up my own mind, in accordance with my own conscience, and my best views about what's in the interests of the nation," Gillard said.

The Welsh-born Gillard grew up in South Australia. There, she said, her parents taught her the value of hard work, respect and doing your bit for the community. “It is these values that will guide me as Australia's Prime Minister," she said, adding that she believed in a government that rewards those that work the hardest "not those that complain the loudest".