Was the Australian Labor Party right to dump Julia Gillard as leader?
New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has used his first address to Parliament to call on MPs to be a ''little kinder and gentler with each other''.
Hours after he was sworn by Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Mr Rudd used his first official comments as Prime Minister to acknowledge the contributions of former prime minister Julia Gillard and former treasurer Wayne Swan, while talking of the difficulties of political life.
''As we all know in this place, political life is a very hard life. A very hard life indeed ... But let us all remember particularly on days like this that in this Parliament and in this place we are all human beings,'' he said.
Neither Ms Gillard nor Mr Swan were present in the chamber to hear Mr Rudd speak.
In a comment reminiscent of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's 2010 call for a ''kinder, gentler polity'', Mr Rudd added: ''So let us try, just try, to be a little kinder and gentler with each other in the further deliberations of this Parliament.''
Mr Abbott also addressed the House on indulgence, first congratulating Mr Rudd.
''I congratulate the Prime Minister for returning to the high office which he formerly occupied and which he has been dreaming of returning to for three long years and three long days,'' he said.
But in commiserating with Ms Gillard, Mr Abbott did not resist the opportunity to attack Labor's ''faceless men'', calling on the new Prime Minister to explain the events of Wednesday night and bring on an election.
''The former prime minister should have been dealt with by the Australian people at an election, not by the faceless men in the caucus last night,'' he said.
Mr Rudd's return to the top job comes as one of his last-minute backers, Bill Shorten, says he believes Mr Rudd has changed.
In a short official ceremony at Government House in Canberra on Thursday morning, Governor-General Quentin Bryce has also sworn in Anthony Albanese as Deputy Prime Minister and Chris Bowen as Treasurer.
Mr Rudd's family, including his wife Therese Rein, daughter Jessica, son Marcus and granddaughter Josephine, watched as he was made Prime Minister for the second time.
At the time Ms Gillard was spotted down at Aussies Cafe at Parliament House having a coffee.
Mr Shorten, who dramatically switched his support from Ms Gillard to Mr Rudd just before the caucus ballot on Wednesday, has told Fairfax Radio that he believes Mr Rudd has learnt lessons from his previous experience as prime minister.
''I believe he will operate in a more consultative open style,'' Mr Shorten said. ''I believe that he's changed.''
The Workplace Relations Minister, who expects to continue in that role, said he had asked for no guarantees from Mr Rudd.
Mr Rudd is not expected to make an announcement about the rest of his ministry until tomorrow at the earliest.
It is understood that he has not yet decided about the election date and is now consulting with his colleagues.
The dramatic return to Mr Rudd came despite ministers and Ms Gillard attacking him for his ''dysfunctional'' adminstration during Mr Rudd's first stint as PM after winning the 2007 election.
Mr Shorten said he was not a traitor and that he had only made up his mind about switching his support to Mr Rudd after Ms Gillard announced the ballot on Wednesday afternoon.
But he said he had been thinking about it for some weeks.
He defended his decision not to speak about this publicly at the time, saying it would have been destabilising.
Despite his defence of his actions, the Coalition had Mr Shorten in its sights in Parliament. Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison did not appear to heed Mr Rudd's call for greater kindness in the Parliament, referring to Mr Shorten as the ''Kingslayer'' during a motion shortly following the Prime Minister's statement.
Former Labor leader Mark Latham, who is not fan of Mr Rudd, likened the new Prime Minister to a rat and a ''snake in the pit''.
Mr Latham, who resigned as Labor leader in 2005, described Mr Rudd's win on Wednesday as the victory of a saboteur.
''It's to be a rat and a snake in the pit - that's the message that Kevin Rudd sends,'' Mr Latham told Fairfax Radio.
Wong backs Rudd
Finance Minister Penny Wong revealed on Thursday that she voted for Mr Rudd in the leadership ballot, saying she told Ms Gillard in person of her decision beforehand.
Senator Wong said to switch her allegiance was ''the most difficult decision of my political life''.
''I had to decide who I thought would offer the best contest at the next election against Tony Abbott,'' Senator Wong told ABC Radio on Thursday.
She described Ms Gillard as a friend, which made the decision even more difficult.
Senator Wong would not say how Ms Gillard received her advice.
''But I will say that she . . . showed enormous dignity and enormous class,'' she said.
Senator Wong, who is is a lesbian and has openly advocated for same-sex marriage, said that Mr Rudd's recent shift to support the issue did not have any influence on her decision.
She also said as a feminist it was extremely hard to vote against Ms Gillard.
''But, ultimately, as I said, you have to weigh your loyalties and your different principles. And I do not believe the feminist principles which I hold dear would be served by Tony Abbott becoming Prime Minister with the views that he has expressed on women and women's capacity,'' she said.
Australian Labor Party national secretary George Wright said party members wanted the federal party to "re-energise" and "unite" under Mr Rudd.
Mr Wright, who is the ALP's chief election campaign manager, congratulated the new Prime Minister, saying he thought he could lead Labor to victory.
He also paid tribute to Ms Gillard for her policy achievements.
Policy go ahead
The federal government is pushing ahead with a crackdown on the skilled foreign worker program, dismissing signals of the first major policy shift under new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The bill wanted to compel employers show they had gone to all lengths to ensure vacant jobs were offered to Australians before they employed someone from overseas. Unions were in favour but business was not.
Leader of the House, new Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese moved on Thursday to make it the most important bill and it will be voted on soon.
Rudd takes top job again
Kevin Rudd has been sworn in again as Australia's prime minister, as it appeared likely the country will go to the polls earlier than planned September 14 election.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce, acting on the advice from the solicitor-general, swore in Rudd and his deputy Anthony Albanese in a brief ceremony at Government House in Canberra this morning.
Chris Bowen has also been sworn in as treasurer, replacing and former deputy prime minister Wayne Swan who resigned from cabinet on Wednesday night.
The swearing-in followed Rudd's 57-45 caucus vote victory over Julia Gillard, who ousted him in June 2010 and narrowly held onto power with the backing of the Greens and independents after the 2010 election.
Bryce secured an assurance from Rudd that he would announce his appointment to the House of Representatives today.
The parliament would then be able to take whatever action it chose to do, including a no confidence motion.
But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott talked down the prospects of moving a no-confidence motion in the Labor government.
"Plainly one-third of the cabinet has no confidence in Mr Rudd, they've resigned, it's the biggest exodus from the cabinet in memory," Abbott told the Nine Network.
"But we're not into parliamentary games ... let's let the people decide."
Should a motion go forward Rudd appeared likely to get support from crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie, Peter Slipper, Craig Thomson, Bob Katter and Adam Bandt.
Rudd was expected to announce an August 24 election.
He has to fill five other vacancies in the cabinet.
Labor's new Senate leader Penny Wong revealed she voted for Kevin Rudd, having told Gillard just hours before the ballot.
"I had to decide who I thought would offer the best contest at the next election against Tony Abbott," Senator Wong told ABC Radio.
She described Gillard as a friend, which made the decision even more difficult.
Gillard supporter, Resources Minister Gary Gray, said Rudd had asked him to stay on and he had agreed to do so.
Environment Minister Tony Burke was also staying on, despite offering his resignation to Rudd.
Abbott said Rudd had "had his revenge".
"But is this all about Kevin Rudd's ego or is it about the Australian people?" Mr Abbott said.
Albanese said there would be a "proper discussion" about changing the election date, but any change would not be too far from the existing September 14 poll.
"The party will unite behind Kevin Rudd's leadership," Albanese said.
In a day of high drama yesterday, Rudd defeated Gillard in a party-room vote.
Rudd's promotion marks a stunning turnaround for the former prime minister and polling suggests the election scheduled for September will be more closely fought than was expected.
Gillard will return to the backbench and will leave politics altogether at the election. She congratulated Rudd and advised that she would see Bryce later in the evening to resign her commission and advise her of Rudd's election.
Rudd praised Gillard. ''She is a woman of extraordinary intelligence, great strength and energy,'' he said. ''She has been a remarkable reformer and I acknowledge those contributions.''
He criticised Abbott as ''a man steeped in the power of negative politics''.
''I very simply do not have it in my nature to stand idly by and allow an Abbott government to come to power by default,'' he said.
Gillard's demise brings to an end a tumultuous three years in which she broke through the ultimate glass ceiling, but saw Labor's vote slump to a position where it faced almost certain defeat.
But it has also plunged Labor into more turmoil, with several senior figures resigning in protest and the party showing few signs of being able to present a united front.
Gillard reflected on her role as Australia's first female prime minister, and attributed in part, her political troubles to her gender.
''It doesn't explain everything, it doesn't explain nothing, it explains some things,'' she said.
- SMH and AAP
- Sydney Morning Herald