Australian Prime Minister Ousted By Her Own Party
Julia Gillard, the leader of Australia’s Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia, gambled her political future today and lost big:
Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, has been sacked by her party and replaced by the man she ousted three years ago.
After an unprecedented day of political bloodletting in Canberra, Kevin Rudd beat Gillard to become Labor party leader in a ballot of MPs by a margin of 57 to 45. It is only the second time a sitting Australian prime minister has been removed from office by their party; Rudd’s removal was the first.
Gillard laid down the challenge to Rudd, when she called on Wednesday for a do-or-die ballot on the condition that the loser retire from parliament to end the debilitating Labor leadership war.
Gillard said she had called the ballot on the basis that “if you win, you are Labor leader; if you lose, you retire from politics” and was now expected to retire. A cabinet reshuffle is expected.
The day of high drama began in the morning, when supporters of Rudd, who had advocated his return to the leadership for virtually the entire three years of the hung parliament, began circulating a petition to try to force a contest in this, the last sitting week of parliament before the September election.
Within hours, Gillard went on the attack and made the dramatic decision to hold a snap vote on her position and, in effect, the job of prime minister. “It is in the best interest of the nation and the Labor party for this to be resolved,” she said. “This is it. There are no more opportunities, tonight’s the night.”
Indeed, it was.
The move comes after several months during which Gillard’s personal popularity, and that of her party, had declined significantly in the polls. With Parliamentary elections coming within the next several months no matter what happened, it seems clear that the party decided that it needed to dump her, for its own good. Whether that will help in the elections is something only time will tell.
Gillard had gained much attention around the world as Australia’s first female Prime Minister, as well as for comments in 2010 when she openly admitted to not having any religious beliefs of any kind, something you would almost never hear from an American politician.