Her face may be unfamiliar to many now but Julia Gillard is set to take her place on the world stage as Australia’s first female prime minister.
She mounted a surprise leadership challenge in the ruling Labor Party, saying the government had been losing its way.
“I also certainly acknowledge that I have not been elected prime minister by the Australian people,” Gillard said after her appointment. “And, in the coming months, I will ask the Governor General to call a general election so that the Australian people can exercise their birthright and choose their prime minister,” she added.
Formerly deputy prime minister, Gillard, 48, was born in Wales and moved to Australia with her parents as a young child. Replacing Kevin Rudd at the helm, she is widely seen as giving Labour a better chance of holding onto power in a poll expected around October.
Suddenly out of office, an emotional Rudd reflected on his government’s record.
“We have thrown our absolute all at this and I believe, when we look back at this, these reforms will endure into the future,” he said.
Gillard has vowed to end division over a controversial tax on mining that has seen her party’s approval ratings slump. She also plans to resurrect the government’s carbon trade emissions scheme to combat climate change.