Leading lady: New Prime Minister Julia Gillard with Richmond MP Justine Elliot.
Leading lady: New Prime Minister Julia Gillard with Richmond MP Justine Elliot.

Australia's first female PM

JULIA Gillard is the nation's first female Prime Minister, and that is the way Richmond MP Justine Elliot wants it.

History was made in Australian politics yesterday as Kevin Rudd, once one of the country's most popular leaders, stepped down from the top job in his government's first term.

The move cleared the path for Ms Gillard, his Deputy Prime Minister since the 2007 Federal Election “Ruddslide”, to take the reins after weeks of tension over the leadership.

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“An honoured” Ms Gillard was elected unopposed, alongside new Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer Wayne Swan.

But despite Mr Rudd admitting defeat in the eleventh hour, Ms Elliot was prepared to back Ms Gillard all the way through a planned leadership ballot.

A spokeswoman for Ms Elliot said she had been prepared to support Ms Gillard in yesterday morning's caucus meeting before an abandoned Mr Rudd stood aside.

But in a statement welcoming and supporting the appointment of Ms Gillard, the Ageing Minister was tight-lipped on why she had turned her back on the man who elevated her to the front bench. .

“Julia understands the issues that are important to us on the North Coast,” Ms Elliot said.

“She will be working hard to make sure all Australians are rewarded for their hard work and that their rights are protected.

“She has committed to leading a strong and responsible government. A government that delivers a strong economy, better health services and better schools.”

Mr Rudd, who called for the special leadership ballot on Wednesday night, announced shortly before the planned meeting yesterday morning at 9am that he would not participate.

Ms Elliot did not linger on the past Rudd Government, instead turning her attention towards the future.

“I am proud to be part of Julia Gillard's team and will continue delivering for the people of the North Coast,” she said.

“We have an ambitious agenda because we believe Australians deserve better. Better health and hospitals, better schools and a stronger economy.”

Ms Gillard was a guest of Ms Elliot's on the Tweed in February, where in her duties as the Education Minister she announced $2.4 million for Tweed Heads Public School, as well as opening the Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus. She also met with local students.

Meanwhile, the Tweed River Art Gallery yesterday capitalised on the new PM, hanging a portrait of Ms Gillard.

Budget airline Jetstar also jumped on the bandwagon yesterday, promoting cheap fares from Sydney to the Gold Coast with a photo of the former PM and the question “Taking a Break?”

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