Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard set for showdown over leadership of Australia


Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called a press conference at a Washington hotel in the early hours of Wednesday morning to resign, saying he felt he no longer had the support of Prime Minister Julia Gillard


Alex Wong

Australia’s former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced that he will challenge his successor, Julia Gillard, for the leadership of the Labor Party and of the country in Monday’s party leadership ballot.

“I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when they elected me to become prime minister,” he told reporters in Brisbane just hours after returning from the US, according to the BBC.

Rudd, who was ousted by Gillard as prime minister in June 2010, resigned as foreign minister early on Wednesday, prompting Gillard to call a Labor leadership ballot. It will be conducted at 10:00 east coast time on Monday (18:00 EST Sunday).

More from GlobalPost: Australia's Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd resigns over leadership squabble

The contest follows weeks of increasingly bitter infighting over the top job. At Friday’s news conference, Rudd said Gillard was incapable of winning the next general elections in 2013 for the party:

“Rightly or wrongly, Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people. That’s why I’ve decided to contest the leadership.”

At a press conference in Melbourne following Rudd’s announcement, Gillard fired back at her rival, accusing him of chaotic and dysfunctional government when he was leader and of deliberately undermining her administration over the past year:

“Australians can have trust in me that I am the person to get things done,” she told reporters, adding: “This isn’t ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ – it is about working out who can lead the nation, who has got the ability to get things done,” according to The New York Times.

Gillard also claimed that as prime minister she had secured major reforms which had fallen to the wayside during Rudd’s leadership, including a price on carbon, a tax on the mining and resources industry, and health reform, The Guardian reported.

Political observers say Gillard is well ahead in the leadership contest, enjoying the backing of about two-thirds of the parliamentary Labor party. Both Gillard and Rudd have said they will not seek a seat in a new cabinet should the other win. 

More from GlobalPost: Julia Gillard challenges Kevin Rudd to ballot to settle Australian leadership issue