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Gillard prevails in leadership battle

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Kevin Rudd's final bow?

Tim Lester and Tony Wright discuss Kevin Rudd's concession, and wonder if this is the last we'll see of his leadership aspirations.

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Julia Gillard has convincingly beaten Kevin Rudd in their leadership battle, 71 votes to 31, to retain the prime ministership.

In her press conference after her resounding victory, the Prime Minister said: ''Australians have had a gutful of seeing us focus on ourselves.

Kevin Rudd on the backbench today in question time.

Kevin Rudd on the backbench today in question time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

''Today I want to say to Australians one and all, this issue, the leadership question is now determined,'' she said.

''I can assure you that this political drama is over.''

Ms Gillard repeated her mantra of the 2010 coup that the Labor Party needed now to ''move forward'' and had instructed the party that Mr Rudd must be honoured as a past prime minister ''for his many achievements'', including the apology to the stolen generations, the successful steerage of the Australian economy through the global financial crisis and his ''amazing advocacy'' as foreign minister.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard emerges victorious from the caucus ballot flanked by acting Foreign Minister Craig Emerson (left) and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard emerges victorious from the caucus ballot flanked by acting Foreign Minister Craig Emerson (left) and Treasurer Wayne Swan. Photo: Andrew Meares

In his press conference after the ballot, Mr Rudd thanked the one-third of his colleagues who backed him and said he bore no grudges against those who spoke out against him.
Ms Gillard acknowledged that it was a difficult and disappointing day for Mr Rudd and his family.

''A very tough day indeed,'' she said.

She said that she had learnt important lessons and acknowledged that she had made mistakes, saying that she intended to be ''a stronger and more forceful advocate'' for the government's intentions.

Kevin Rudd, surrounded by his supporters, leaves the caucus meeting after securing only 31 votes.

Kevin Rudd, surrounded by his supporters, leaves the caucus meeting after securing only 31 votes. Photo: Andrew Meares

In particular she said the public should have been given a full and proper explanation about the 2010 leadership coup that ousted Mr Rudd as leader.

''I accept I should have explained that at the time,'' she said.

''I have now had the opportunity to do so.''

Labor politician and ex foreign minister Kevin Rudd photographed this morning prior to his challenge as labor party leader against Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Click for more photos

Caucus gathers to vote

Caucus gathers to vote for the ballot between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd at Parliament House, Canberra. February 27, 2012. Selected Images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com. Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: Brendan Esposito

Ms Gillard said that she was not prepared to canvass those events further as there had been vast public commentary on the matter over the past week.

''It should be at an end, our focus is on 2012 and all the years that lie beyond,'' Ms Gillard said.

She said she was confident that she could win the next election, adding that Labor and the Coalition had ''competing visions for the future''.

Ms Gillard said her overriding emotion for the day was impatience and that she wanted to ''get on'' with delivering policy and programs.

Addressing the media before Ms Gillard spoke to reporters, Mr Rudd also thanked those who did not vote for him for the friendship and messages of support in the past week and then addressed directly the factions and ''more willing critics''.

''I bear no grudges, I bear no one any malice and if have done the wrong thing, in what I have said or what I have done, then I apologise,'' he said.

It was ''past time the wounds are healed'', he said, referring to the deep division in the party that emerged during the leadership tussle. ''We have a higher purpose, to serve our nation, not ourselves,'' he said.

''I accept fully the verdict of the caucus,'' he said.

He said that he now ''devoted myself full to [Ms Gillard's] re-election''.

Mr Rudd said that he had stood for the leadership because he ''believed it was the right thing to do''.

He then delivered a lengthy statement in which he outlined the achievements he was most proud of as prime minister and more recently as foreign affairs minister.

Mr Rudd then moved on to his staff, singling them out by name. ''This is where you start to gum up. What can I say about you all? You are just terrific.''

Mr Rudd also thanked his wife, Therese Rein, and his children.

''Family for me is everything,'' he said. ''I could do nothing in public life if it was not for their support.''

To Ms Rein he said, ''Darling, you have been my rock.''

He confirmed he would continue in politics, saying ''I will continue to be the federal member of Griffith until well after the election.''

Mr Rudd referred to the drawn-out leadership battle, saying ''over the years we've had a few internal problems'' but that Labor was interested in ''building things'' while the opposition wanted to ''tear them down''.

''I will now throw my every effort into securing Julia Gillard's re-election as Prime Minister,'' he said.

Mr Rudd ended the press conference without taking questions, saying simply: ''We will now take our leave.''

Ms Gillard said for the time being Trade Minister Craig Emerson would act as Foreign Affairs Minister and she would announce her reshuffle in coming days.

She would not say whether the five ministers who had publicly supported Mr Rudd would be removed for disloyalty.

Returning officer and the member for Fowler, Chris Hayes, said directly after the ballot that the mood in the party room meeting had been ''reasonably tense''.

He also said that there was relief on the faces of some senators and MPs after the result and some clapping.

Neither Ms Gillard nor Mr Rudd spoke for more than three minutes in the Labor caucus meeting.

The meeting took more than an hour because of the need to vote and then count the votes, Mr Hayes said.

Labor MP Dick Adams also reported that Mr Rudd said that he would be ''right behind'' Ms Gillard from now on.

Ms Gillard emerged from the caucus room flanked by Treasurer Wayne Swan and Mr Emerson.

Yet despite Ms Gillard's resounding victory, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that her leadership was not safe and continued his call for an election.

Mr Abbott has formally requested that the independents state whether or not they have confidence in Ms Gillard as Prime Minister.

He said that today was not a ''new start'' for Ms Gillard but a ''stay of execution''.

He said that a bad government had been exposed by a ''whistleblower''.

''My message to the Australian people is very clear,'' Mr Abbott said shortly before question time.

''We are a great country that is being let down by a bad government.''

Mr Abbott repeated his call for an election.

''I think that the Prime Minister of this country should be chosen by the people and not by the faceless men,'' Mr Abbott said.

The Opposition Leader, who is often criticised as ''Dr No'' by the government, added that he was ''model of positivity'' compared with what Labor MPs had been saying about each other in recent days.

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