Gillard Becomes Australia’s First Female PM

CANBERRA

Australia’s Julia Gillard became the country’s first female prime minister on Thursday after former leader Kevin Rudd stepped down as party leader, avoiding a ballot he was certain to lose.

“The next Labor prime minister, the first female prime minister of this country will be Julia Gillard,” a party spokesman said.

Gillard, 48, stood unopposed against Rudd after the prime minister conceded he had lost the support of key factional leaders and was sliding in opinion polls following a serious of policy backflips.

“I feel very honoured. I will be making a full statement very shortly,” Gillard told waiting reporters after emerging from the party vote at Parliament House in Canberra.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, credited with steering the country successfully through the global financial crisis, will be deputy prime minister once he and Gillard are sworn in by Governor General Quentin Bryce later Thursday.

Rudd had been expected to contest the Labor Party ballot against the Welsh-born Gillard, a childless single career woman, who entered parliament in 1998.

But after indications that he would have lost the vote, garnering the support of only around 30 parliamentary colleagues, compared to Gillard’s more than 70 supporters, he stood aside at the last minute.

Centre-left Labor leader Rudd was riding high on opinion polls until recently, but his approval rating has tumbled after a serious of policy U-turns, including backing down on a carbon emissions trading scheme to combat climate change.

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