|Kevin Rudd said Julia Gillard has lost the trust of the Australian people [AFP]|
Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former prime minister, has confirmed he will challenge his successor Julia Gillard in a leadership vote, days after quitting as foreign minister in her government amid an increasingly bitter power struggle within the ruling Labor Party.
Rudd on Friday also stepped up his attacks against Gillard, the prime minister, accusing her of betraying him when she replaced him as party leader in an internal vote in 2010.
“Talk is easy and getting things done is harder … I am the person who gets things done“
– Julia Gillard, Australian PM
Gillard called a leadership vote for Monday following Rudd’s resignation on Wednesday, in the hope of reasserting her authority before Rudd’s rebellion gained support.
But Rudd told a press conference on Friday that he would stand against her.
“Rightly or wrongly Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people and starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust,” he told reporters in his home town of Brisbane.
“I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when they elected me to become prime minister.”
Rudd also hit back at senior party colleagues, accusing them of “character assassination” over personal attacks that have questioned his leadership abilities and loyalty to the party.
While admitting he was not “Captain Perfect”, Rudd said colleagues had attempted to portray him as “if not the son of Satan, at least the grandson of Satan”.
Gillard and senior cabinet ministers, including party treasurer Wayne Swan, have criticised Rudd’s time as prime minister between 2007 and mid 2010 as dysfunctional.
‘Faceless spin machine’
“Be very careful of the spin machine of the faceless men in basically a systematic campaign of character assassination in order to justify actions already taken,” he said.
Gillard, who leads a fragile minority government backed by Green Party and independent MPs after failing to secure an outright majority in 2010 elections, is believed to retain the support of most of Labor’s 103 members of parliament.
But Rudd, who became prime minister in 2007 after a landslide electoral win which ended more than a decade of conservative rule, has argued that Gillard is incapable of hanging onto power at the country’s next election.
Gillard told a news conference in Melbourne on Friday that she was still the right person to lead Australia.
“Talk is easy and getting things done is harder … I am the person who gets things done,” Gillard said.
“The choice that the nation faces and my parliamentary colleagues face on Monday is a choice as to who has got the character, the temperament, the strength to deliver on behalf of the Australian people,” Gillard told reporters.
Gillard says she has pushed through controversial measures, including a carbon tax and mining taxes, which would be at risk if Rudd returned to office.
If he wins the leadership vote, Rudd would need to renegotiate agreements with the Greens and at least two independents to ensure he could control a majority in parliament, or call early elections.
‘Incredibly ugly spat’
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, said: “The worst kept secret in Australian politics that the foreign minister and the prime minister didn’t get on [well together] is now well and truly out of the bag.”
“This has been an incredibly ugly spat, with the governing Labor party split right down the middle between former prime minister, now also the former foreign minister, and the prime minister,” said our correspondent.
Rudd said Gillard had betrayed him in 2010, backing down on an agreement to give him more time to restore Labor’s poll standing while secretly plotting with faction leaders to replace him.
“I seem to remember someone putting their hand on their heart for about three months in the lead up to June 2010, saying that she would never ever challenge for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party,” Rudd said of Gillard.
There are considered to be few major policy differences between Rudd and Gillard, although Rudd has said he would do more to build business confidence in Australia, help manufacturers, and focus on health and education.