Profile: Australian PM Julia Gillard

CANBERRA (BestGrowthStock) – Australia may be headed for a hung parliament with an election-eve opinion poll showing the ruling Labor party has lost its slim lead and is now level with the conservative opposition, a worst-case scenario for investors.

Three independents, if elected on Saturday, may decide whether Labor or the conservative opposition forms government.

Here are key facts about Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

— Gillard, 48, is Australia’s first female prime minister. Her early political career was forged by Labor’s left wing, but her ascendency to prime minister was the result of right-wing powerbrokers in the party. Seen as an economic conservative, she has promised to return the budget to surplus by 2012-13.

— Arrived in Australia, aged four, in the 1960s from south Wales, a cradle of Britain’s own Labour movement. Late British Labour politician Nye Bevan, a former Welsh coal miner and chief architect of the National Health Service, remains one of her political heroes.

— Graduated with a law degree 1986 from the University of Melbourne. Became involved in politics via the Labor Club at the University of Adelaide and then led the Australian Union of Students at Melbourne University.

— Joined law firm Slater & Gordon, which specializes in class actions and personal-injury cases, in 1987 and became a partner at age 29 in 1990. Became a political adviser in the late 1990s and helped promote women in politics.

— First elected to parliament in 1998 and quickly rose to become a leading light of the Labor left, appointed shadow minister for population and immigration in 2001 and shadow health minister in 2003 and later became deputy Labor leader in 2006.

— Appointed deputy prime minister 2007 when Labor won office and became minister for education, labor and social inclusion.

— Toppled then prime minister Kevin Rudd on June 24, 2010 in a Labor party coup.

— Quick-witted, with a broad Australian accent and a working-class pedigree, Gillard is in many ways an old-school Labor politician, more reminiscent of Labor prime ministers from the 80s and 90s.

— Gillard is known as a strong negotiator with an ability to consider alternative views and draw rivals into agreement. She ended a politically damaging row with global miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata within days of being appointed prime minister by agreeing to water down a new resource tax.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)

Profile: Australian PM Julia Gillard