Kevin Rudd has been sworn in as Australian prime minister for the second time, a day after he ousted Julia Gillard and three months before national elections that polls suggest their Labor party may lose heavily.
Addressing parliament afterwards, he praised his predecessor despite their bitter rivalry but said he could not “stand idly by” and allow the opposition conservatives to come to power “by default”.
Gillard’s exit follows three years of party in-fighting. Once Rudd’s deputy, she toppled him to become prime minister only to see her rival get his revenge. She is now leaving politics altogether.
Some newspapers have been scathing about Labor’s “squabbles”, describing a “poisonous, inglorious chapter” in the party’s history.
However although he is despised by several senior figures in his own party, Rudd remains popular with the public.
“He planned out his attack very carefully for a long period of time and I think he deserves everything he gets,” said one man in Canberra.
But a woman thought the government in-fighting had been extremely damaging: “I think it’s been made a joke out of really, I think, you know, a lot of people around the world are talking about it and it’s not going to reflect positively upon the Australian society,” she said.
Critics say the leadership battle has given the conservatives free rein ahead of September’s election.
Attacking what they say has been a lack of government leadership, industry leaders have called on Rudd to abandon laws they see as “anti-business”.
Kevin Rudd has vowed to rebuild damaged ties with the business community, and tackle economic problems posed by a slowdown in top trade partner China.