Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday vowed a close working relationship with the man she brutally ousted, insisting she would not be outshone by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
Gillard named Rudd her chief envoy on Saturday, less than three months after axing him in a sudden coup that stunned the nation and almost cost the ruling Labor party leadership in Aug. 21 polls.
Mandarin-speaking ex-diplomat Rudd stormed to power with a landslide 2007 election victory, but his autocratic, centralized ruling style was widely criticized and led to policy blunders that cost him the leadership.
Gillard said Rudd was “entitled to respect” as a former prime minister, but said she had ultimately offered him the foreign ministry because he brought a “lot of expertise,” denying there was bad blood between them.
“Of course we are,” she said when asked whether they were able to collaborate. “And we obviously will be working together in the interests of the nation.”
The flame-haired former lawyer insisted foreign policy would be decided by the government “as a team,” not Rudd alone, and though they would work closely she would always have the final say.
“Ultimately, of course, I’m the leader,” Gillard told ABC television. “It’s inevitable that international diplomacy happens leader-to-leader at events like the G20 and that the foreign minister also has a large role to play, so Kevin and I will be working together, playing those complementary roles.”
Gillard lauded Rudd’s record as a leader in the region, praising his work on the G20 and bringing the US into the East Asia Summit.
“In terms of relations with countries in our region ... as I deal with leaders in the region, I saw that as deputy prime minister and now as prime minister, our relationships are strong,” she said.
She also defended her decision to elevate the members of parliament who engineered her coup against Rudd, saying the appointments had been made “on merit” and the men had been deserving of promotion.
Gillard flagged a more inclusive, long-term approach to government, saying there was “merit in involving more people” and focusing on broader goals.
“It’s more important where you’re going to be in a year’s time or two years’ time than what is reported tonight,” Gillard said. “Big reforms take patient, methodical work.”
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