Gillard: 'Leadership settled' as Rudd shuns vote

Julia Gillard: "The leadership of the Labor Party has been settled in the most conclusive fashion"

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared the Labor party leadership conclusively settled, after Kevin Rudd shunned a party vote.

Ms Gillard called the ballot after a senior MP said the debate over who should lead Labor into September's general election had to be resolved.

But Mr Rudd, ousted by Ms Gillard in 2010, declined to challenge her.

The former prime minister said he did not have enough support.

"I believe in honouring my word," he said in reference to an earlier pledge not to challenge Ms Gillard.

"I have also said that the only circumstances under which I would consider a return to leadership would be if there was an overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party requesting such a return, drafting me to return and the position was vacant," he went on.

"I am here to inform you that those circumstances do not exist."

Analysis

In the end there was a contest without a challenger, with Julia Gillard re-elected unopposed.

Her bitter rival, Kevin Rudd, whom she deposed as leader in 2010, simply did not have the support within the party to defeat her, as was the case just over a year ago when he decided to mount a challenge.

Minutes before the party meeting came the announcement from Mr Rudd that he was sticking to a pledge not to seek a return unless he enjoyed the overwhelming backing of colleagues.

As today's chaotic and confusing events proved again, he does not. A deeply polarising figure, many former cabinet colleagues despise him.

Polls continually suggest that Ms Gillard's Labor party will suffer a landslide defeat at the forthcoming election, and also that Mr Rudd is more popular with the public.

But it does now look as if she will contest the election but at the head of a party in complete disarray and riven with rivalries and animosities. The big winner today, without any doubt, is the conservative opposition, and its leader, Tony Abbott.

'At an end'

The ballot, which also followed days of speculation over the leadership, had been scheduled for 16:30 (05:30 GMT), but minutes before it was due to take place Mr Rudd made his intentions known.

Ms Gillard was therefore unopposed in the leadership challenge.

"Today the leadership of our political party, the Labor Party, has been settled and settled in most conclusive fashion possible," she said.

"The whole business is completely at an end," she added, saying there was much work to be done ahead of the election.

Polls show Mr Rudd has more public support than Ms Gillard, who looks set to lose the election to the Liberal Party's Tony Abbott.

Mr Rudd has remained a thorn in Ms Gillard's side since she ousted him as prime minister in 2010.

He challenged her for the party leadership in February 2012, but lost by 31 votes to 71.

In recent weeks, however, local media reports had suggested he was closer to marshalling the numbers needed for victory.

The leadership ructions came hours after Ms Gillard issued a historic apology to people affected by Australia's forced adoption policy between the 1950s and 1970s.

Tens of thousands of babies of unmarried, mostly teenage mothers, were thought to have been taken by the state and given to childless married couples.

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