Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was disposed last night by his party, with his deputy Julia Gillard being sworn in today as the country’s new leader, and first female prime minister.
Rudd, who is on good terms with President Mohamed Nasheed, was elected in a landslide win in 2007 as leader of the Labor Party, but fell victim to factions within the party after his opinion polls plummeted, in what Australian Associated Press described as “a cloak-and-dagger plot hatched by shadowy backroom operators.”
“I have given my absolute all,” Rudd said, struggling to retain his composure in his final speech two hours after he stood down.
“I was elected by the Australian people as the prime minister… to bring back a fair go for all Australians. I have given my absolute best to do that,” he said, adding that he was less proud of “blubbering”.
“Having said all that folks, we’ve gotta zip,” he concluded.
Gillard gave credit to Rudd “for leading the nation in such difficult times and keeping people in work,’’ but said the government “was losing its way.”
“I love this country and I was not going to sit idly by and watch an incoming opposition cut health, cut education and smash rights at work,” she said.
Australian commentators observed that Rudd’s popularity divebombed during a damaging fight with Australia’s monolithic mining industry over a proposed 40 percent tax on their profits.
However many acknowledged surprise at the sheer speed of Rudd’s eviction – none more than Rudd himself, who visibly struggled through his exit speech.
Gillard appeared slightly discontented at the shadowy nature of her arrival at the helm and accepted the role somewhat grudgingly, remarking that she would not move into the Prime Minister’s official residence until she was voted into power in the upcoming Australian election.