Julia Gillard accepts new PM role
AUSTRALIA'S first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard has accepted her new role with the "greatest humility, resolve and enthusiasm".
"I am truly honoured to lead this country which I love," she told media today.
Ms Gillard acknowledged Mr Rudd and gave him credit for leading the country in difficult times. He stood down as leader at a caucus meeting this morning.
"I believed a good government was losing its way," she said.
"He made wonderful history for this nation by saying sorry to indigenous Australians.
"He was the leader who withdrew our troops from Iraq and had the foresight to reinforce our commitments in Afghanistan.
"He was the leader who saw us through the global financial crisis.
"The leader who turned his intelligence and determination to health reform, combating homelessness and closing the gap for indigenous Australians."
However, Ms Gillard said she was not going to "sit idly by and watch an incoming opposition cut education, cut health and smash rights at work".
"My values and beliefs have driven me to step forward and take this position as Prime Minister.
"I believe in a government that rewards those that work the hardest. Not those that complain the loudest.
"The day in and day out work in our factories and on our farms, in our mines and in our mills, in our classrooms and in our hospitals. That rewards that hard work, decency and effort."
Ms Gillard said she grew up in a home of hardworking parents who taught her about hard work, respect and "doing your bit for the community" - the values that would guide her as Australia's 27th Prime Minister.
She also said she could assure every Australian that the federal budget would be back in surplus in 2013.
Turning to Labor's failed attempt to introduce an emissions trading scheme, Ms Gillard said she was disappointed that Australia didn't have a price on carbon.
"In the future we will need one," she said.
"But first we will need to establish a community consensus for action.
"If elected as prime minister (at the next election), I will re-prosecute the case for a carbon price at home and abroad."
She said that in coming months she should would ask the Governor-General to call an election "so that the Australian people can exercise their birth right and choose their Prime Minister". She added she would not move into The Lodge unless she was re-elected.
Ms Gillard faces Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in Question Time for the first time at 2pm.
Rudd holds back tears in farewell
KEVIN Rudd held back tears as he told media he was elected by the Australian people to bring back a fair-go and had done his best to do that.
"I've given my absolute best," he said.
Kevin Rudd decided not to stand in this morning's ALP leadership ballot, relinquishing the Prime Ministership and handing power to his deputy Julia Gillard.
Mr Rudd was emotional as he spoke of his government's work in lifting organ donation rates.
He was forced to stop speaking a number of times as he struggled to get words out, his voice wavering.
"As somebody who borrowed someone else's aortic valve, I feel a particular responsibility for that," he said.
"There's nothing like having a bit of somebody else in you.
"It focuses the mind, and in my case also focuses the heart."
Mr Rudd let out a deep sigh as he reflected on the importance of health.
Mr Rudd said he remained proud of the government's three unsuccessful efforts to get the emissions trading scheme through parliament.
"If I had one point of future policy it must be our ambition to pass a carbon pollution reduction scheme within this parliament, the one that follows I mean," he said.
"So that we can make a difference, a real difference to climate change."
Mr Rudd ran through a list of other issues he was proud to have taken part in, including increasing the aged single pension, apologising to the stolen generations, and efforts on climate change.
"What I'm less proud of is the fact that I have now blubbered," he said with a chuckle, prompting Therese to put a comforting arm around his shoulder.
After listing a raft of things of which he was proud, Mr Rudd said it had been a very busy two-and-half years.
"I believe that when we look back at this, these reforms will endure into the future and make Australia I believe a fairer and better place than it would otherwise have been," he said.
Mr Rudd thanked the Australian people for giving him their trust.
"It is a high honour to be elected prime minister of Australia."
He also thanked Labor party members, saying he had been a member for the past 25 years, and would likely be one for the next 25 years. He said he would be contesting his Griffith seat in the next election.
He had kind words for Labor's federal parliamentary team.
"Good women and men each one of them, each one of them," he said, adding they were committed to bringing about a fairer and better Australia.
He ended his speech with a familiar phrase: "Having said all of that, folks, we've got a zip".
While Labor had remained a nose ahead on a two-party preferred vote in the opinion polls, Mr Rudd's personal support was sliding.
Policy bungles including the home insulation scheme, as well as the delayed climate change plan and debate over the super profits tax hampered Rudd’s support, notably in regional communities across Australia.
Labor is now expected to quickly get itself on an election footing to take advantage of the fresh start offered by a new leader.