Kevin Rudd was yesterday sworn in as Australian prime minister for the second time, a day after toppling Julia Gillard and three months ahead of elections in which opinion polls show the ruling Labor Party faces a devastating defeat.
Rudd’s return as prime minister follows three years of squabbling within the Labor leadership and as the world’s 12th-largest economy faces challenges stemming from a slowdown in top trade partner China.
Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, has highlighted the difficulties associated with “the end of China’s resource boom” and said he would work to rebuild the government’s strained relations with the business community.
He left open the option of changing the Sept. 14 election date, telling parliament that prime ministers had the right to choose the date.
“There is not going to be a huge variation one way or the other,” he said.
Australian business was scathing of the political instability and urged Rudd to abandon laws that strengthen trade union access to the workplace and tighten rules for temporary skilled immigration.
“Our tolerance factor with instability in the leadership of Australia’s government is at breaking point, matched only by a swathe of anti-business policies which have brought business frustration to boiling point,” said Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Rudd’s first task will be a major Cabinet reshuffle after a string of senior ministers loyal to Gillard resigned.