Melbourne, Feb 24: Taking up the gauntlet, former Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today said he will contest against Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Monday's leadership vote, as the two bitter rivals sparred publicly escalating the row within the ruling Labor party.
“Rightly or wrongly, Julia (Gillard) has lost the trust of the Australian people. And starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust,” 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 Rudd's surprise resignation Wednesday, Gillard called a ballot on Monday to end the leadership speculation “once and for all.”
“And that is why I've decided to contest the leadership of the Labor Party,” Rudd said.
“It's no secret that our government has a lot of work to do if it is to regain the confidence of the Australian people,” he said.
“Starting on Monday, I'm going to start restoring that trust,” he said.
Within hours, Gillard, Australia's first woman Prime Minister, responded to declare that she was the best person to lead the party to victory in the next election.
“Talk is easy. Getting things done is harder and I am the person who get things done,” 50-year-old Gillard said.
Asked to comment on Rudd's resignation and his suggestion that she had lost the trust of Australian voters, Gillard said: “Australians can have confidence in me that no matter how hard it gets, I've got the determination and personal fortitude to see things through.”
She she was confident that she had the support of the 103-strong Labor caucus to continue as Prime Minister.
“I am confident I can lead Labor to a victory at the next election,” Gillard said.
“This is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, this is about who should be Prime Minister,” she said, adding that her colleagues needed to decide “who's got the strength, the temperament, the character, the courage to lead this nation.”
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 “the government was losing its way.”
Rudd had become Prime Minister after defeating the then Liberal Prime Minister John Howard in a general election in 2007. It was Labor'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.