Fri, Nov 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Rudd Cabinet has seven women, rocker

LIBERAL SHAKE-UP Prime Minister John Howard's party has elected Brendan Nelson its new leader -- and his first step was to reverse the refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol

AP AND AFP , CANBERRA

Australian prime minister-elect Kevin Rudd named his Cabinet yesterday, choosing a woman to be deputy leader and former Midnight Oil rock singer Peter Garrett as environment minister.

Announced as foreign minister was Stephen Smith, a lawyer from Western Australia who, like many top members of the incoming government, is virtually unknown outside the country.

Rudd's center-left Labor Party swept to power in last Saturday's elections, ending more than 11 years of conservative rule under Prime Minister John Howard, whose party also announced a new leadership team yesterday.

Rudd said his team represented new and strong leadership for Australia on his key themes of education, economic strength, employment and climate change.

The new Cabinet, including Rudd as prime minister, would be formally sworn in on Monday, Rudd said.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Robert McCallum said Washington looked forward to discussing Rudd's plan to withdraw Australia's 550 combat troops from Iraq -- one of two major policy changes that will put Canberra at odds with the US. Rudd wants a phased withdrawal of the combat troops, leaving hun-dreds more in supporting roles.

Most of Rudd's appointments were as expected, including incoming Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was one of a record seven women appointed ministers.

In that post, Gillard will become Australia's most senior woman politician ever, and will be thrown quickly into the top job if Rudd follows through on plans to attend a UN-backed climate change conference in Indonesia next week -- leaving Gillard as acting prime minister.

Rudd said he was proud to have so many women on his team.

"They have worked their guts out," he said.

"They are strong talented individuals and very much represent Australia's step into the future," he said.

Garrett, a former conservation activist who was enlisted as a star Labor candidate and elected to parliament in 2004, had been Labor's spokesman on the environment and climate change while in opposition.

He will become environment minister and arts minister, but loses the key climate change portfolio, which would go to Penny Wong, a Malaysian immigrant who identifies herself on her Web site as Australia's first Asian-born woman in parliament.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson won a close vote against favored multimillionaire candidate Malcolm Turnbull to secure the top job in Howard's Liberal Party.

Nelson immediately ditched Howard's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The move by Nelson -- who rides a Harley-Davidson, used to wear an earring and was once a member of the Labor Party -- drew a stark line under Howard's era.

Nelson said the electorate had shown that it rejected Howard's refusal to ratify the UN's Kyoto treaty, which aims to curb the emission of greenhouse gases.

"I have heard the message from Australians that was delivered on Saturday and whatever some critics of the Kyoto Protocol might actually think, it's symbolically important to Australians," he said.

Nelson acknowledged at a news conference that he had come to the leadership of the Liberal Party through an "unorthodox route."

"My dad was a Labor man and my family by-and-large was a Labor family," he said.

He pledged, however, to remain true to the tenets of the Liberal Party.

"It's important for us to stand true to the things in which we believe, to understand, accept and respect the decision of the Australian people," he said.

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