Australia gets its 1st female PM
JAKNEWS.COM---Australia has its first female prime minister after the ruling party dumped Kevin Rudd and installed his deputy as leader.
New leader Julia Gillard will lead the government to elections due within months.
Gillard stood unopposed at a vote of the Labor Party's 112 lawmakers at a meeting Thursday (24/6), hours after a revolt against Rudd.
Rudd didn't even stand for reappointment in Thursday's vote - a signal that he knew his support had collapsed.
Since she is leader of the majority party in Parliament, Gillard's swearing in as prime minister is a formality.
Gillard is unlikely to alter Australia's key foreign policy positions such as its troop commitment to Afghanistan.
Rudd won a landslide election victory less than three years ago but suffered a recent plunge in opinion polls.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia will have its first woman premier on Thursday, as Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has enough support to beat incumbent Kevin Rudd in a Labor Party ballot, several media outlets have reported.
A surprise revolt forced Rudd on Wednesday to call a party leadership vote just months away from national elections.
Sky News television reported on Thursday that Gillard had 64 to 70 votes among the 112 Labor lawmakers who will vote. Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio put Gillard's support at 70 while Rudd was assured of only 30.
Some Rudd supporters had anonymously conceded to the ABC that Rudd could not win the ballot.
Gillard supporter Sen. Kate Lundy told Sky that Treasurer Wayne Swan, one of the government's most influential ministers, will run for election as Gillard's deputy. Swan was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
"I think she'll inspire a new confidence in Labor," Lundy told ABC.
"I think we were at risk (of losing the next election) and I think Julia presents a much stronger opportunity for us," she added.
Small Business Minister Craig Emerson said he would vote for Rudd, but was prepared to fully support Gillard if she were elected prime minister.
"I don't believe it is the right way to go to remove a first-term Labor leader," Emerson told reporters.
Rudd had ridden high in opinion polls as one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made major policy backflips, including a decision in April to shelve plans to make Australia's worst polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions.
A leadership change is unlikely to alter Australia's key policy positions, such as its troop commitment to Afghanistan.
However it will determine who heads the ruling Labor Party in elections expected late this year. Despite Australia's weathering the global downturn, recent polling puts his center-left government neck-and-neck with the conservative opposition. One poll earlier this month showed Labor trailing the opposition for the first time in more than four years.
Rudd called a late night news conference to announce Thursday's vote of Labor lawmakers after Gillard said she would challenge him for the leadership.
She had been approached by key factional power brokers in the party who told her that they had abandoned Rudd to support her, Australian Associated Press and Nine Network television reported, without citing sources.
The ballot could take several hours with leadership candidates addressing their colleagues before the anonymous vote is cast.
Rudd is due to fly to a summit of Group of 20 major economies in Canada hours after the ballot. It is unclear who will represent Australia if he loses.
Rudd said he was confident of victory and railed against the factional power brokers, whom he said had plotted against him for weeks amid the government's setbacks in the opinion polls.
Rudd is a Labor hero, having led the party to victory at 2007 elections after 11 years in opposition.