Australia PM Gillard’s charm wins Labor 2nd term

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (BestGrowthStock) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised voters on Tuesday a more open administration after securing a Labor minority government a second-term with the backing of a handful of Green and independent MPs.

But it will be her consensus building skills that will decide if the government, propped by a one-seat majority backed by independents and a Green MP, lasts its three-year term, after an election produced the first hung parliament since World War Two.

“We will be held to higher standards of transparency and reform and it’s in that spirit I approach the task of forming a government,” Gillard said after a nail-biting day when the last two independents backed her Labor government.

Gillard was appointed prime minister in a Labor party coup in June in a desperate bid to avoid electoral defeat due to what was seen as the autocratic leadership and policy failures of then-leader Kevin Rudd.

A lawyer with a union background, Gillard is a strong negotiator, unlike Rudd who on several occasions failed to convince parliament to pass key legislation, including a carbon emissions trading scheme to tackle climate change.

Rudd’s plans for a new 40 percent mining tax sparked a politically damaging row with global miners.

Gillard quickly convinced heavyweights BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata to sign up to the tax after lowering the rate to 30 percent.

In fact, she ended the three-month row, which threatened around A$20 billion in resource investment, in just eight days.

Gillard then sought to placate Green voter anger over Rudd’s postponement of a carbon trading scheme, pledging a market-based carbon price under a future Labor government.

Within two months, Gillard’s conciliatory leadership, broad Australian accent and a working-class pedigree resurrected Labor’s stocks and she called an election.

CHARM OFFENSIVE

Throughout the campaign for the August 21 election, Gillard’s charm offensive made her overwhelmingly the favored prime minister by voters, though Labor’s support ebbed and flowed.

An unmarried, childless, 48-year-old, who does not believe in God, Gillard looked an easy target for radio jocks, but her cool demeanor, sense of humor and intellect won many people over.

Her relationship with long-term partner Tim Mathieson was criticized by pro-marriage groups and right-wing commentators but hailed by feminists.

Gillard arrived in Australia, aged four, in the 1960s from south Wales, a cradle of Britain’s own Labor movement.

She initially lived in a migrant hostel in the provincial town of Adelaide before her father bought a house. She studied law at university, where she got involved in politics and then became a partner in a law firm specializing in class actions and personal injury cases before working as a political adviser.

Gillard was first elected to parliament in 1998.

Forged politically by Labor’s left, her ascendancy to prime minister was the result of right-wing powerbrokers of the party.

With a hung parliament threatening Labor’s political survival, Gillard quickly engineered another charm offensive, this time targeting five independent and Green MPs.

Parliamentary reforms which will give the independents a greater voice in the next parliament and a pledge by major parties to be less partisan were keys to Labor’s win.

Australia’s first female prime minister, Gillard said the next parliament would be a gentler, kinder environment.

“I think Australians want us to have a hard contest when there are real differences. (They are) not wanting to see bickering and imaginary contests and I’ve heard that message.”

(Editing by Ron Popeski)

Australia PM Gillard’s charm wins Labor 2nd term