Melbourne: Taking up the gauntlet, former Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today said he will contest against Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Mondayâ€™s leadership vote, as the two bitter rivals sparred publicly escalating the row within the ruling Labor party.
â€œRightly or wrongly, Julia (Gillard) has lost the trust of the Australian people. And starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust,â€ 54-year-old Rudd told a press conference, ending days of speculation about his intention to challenge the Prime Minister following his dramatic resignation on Wednesday in the US during an official trip.
Soon after Ruddâ€™s surprise resignation Wednesday, Gillard called a ballot on Monday to end the leadership speculation â€œonce and for all.â€
â€œAnd that is why Iâ€™ve decided to contest the leadership of the Labor Party,â€ Rudd said.
â€œItâ€™s no secret that our government has a lot of work to do if it is to regain the confidence of the Australian people,â€ he said.
â€œStarting on Monday, Iâ€™m going to start restoring that trust,â€ he said.
Within hours, Gillard, Australiaâ€™s first woman Prime Minister, responded to declare that she was the best person to lead the party to victory in the next election.
â€œTalk is easy. Getting things done is harder and I am the people who get things done,â€ 50-year-old Gillard said.
Asked to comment on Ruddâ€™s resignation and his suggestion that she had lost the trust of Australian voters, Gillard said: â€œAustralians can have confidence in me that no matter how hard it gets, Iâ€™ve got the determination and personal fortitude to see things through.â€
She she was confident that she had the support of the 103-strong Labor caucus to continue as Prime Minister.
â€œI am confident I can lead Labor to a victory at the next election,â€ Gillard said.
â€œThis is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, this is about who should be Prime Minister,â€ she said, adding that her colleagues needed to decide â€œwhoâ€™s got the strength, the temperament, the character, the courage to lead this nation.â€
Gillard came to power in June 2010 after launching her own leadership challenge against Rudd, who was then Prime Minister. At the time, she was his deputy and justified the move by claiming â€œthe government was losing its way.â€
Rudd had become Prime Minister after defeating the then Liberal Prime Minister John Howard in a general election in 2007. It was Laborâ€™s first win since 1996.
Earlier, Rudd, while announcing his resignation, attacked Gillard-led government for its poor relations with business and criticised a number of policy decisions made since he lost the Prime Ministership. (KMW NEWS)