Gillard takes distance from Rudd’s policies

Australia’s first female prime minister has moved quickly to distance herself from the policy failings of the Rudd government, declaring a truce with miners and restating her commitment to combating climate change.

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By her own admission, the government had lost its way.

“Ultimately, Kevin and I disagreed about the direction of the government. I believed we needed to do better,” she said.

She said in an interview on Thursday evening, that she warned Kevin Rudd of the dire circumstances facing the government in the hours leading up to her decision to depose him as prime minister.

Ms Gillard said she only decided on Wednesday that she would challenge for the leadership after being tapped on the shoulder by Labor factional bosses.

It was a tough decision to reach, she told the ABC.

“I had to make a judgment about what is in the best interest of the nation, what’s in the best interest of the government, what’s in the best interest of the people we seek to serve and what’s in the best interest of the Labor Party.”

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A series of damaging polls, stemming largely from the shelving of the emissions trading scheme and more recently the war with the mining sector over the resources super profits tax, had made Kevin Rudd’s position as prime minister untenable.

“I take my fair share of responsibility for the Rudd government’s record, for our important achievements and for errors made,” Ms Gillard said.

“I know the Rudd government did not do all it said it would do. And at times it went off track.

“I asked my colleagues to make a leadership change. A change because I believed that a good government was losing its way.”

It is now Ms Gillard’s task to get Labor back on track and she has promised there will be changes to policy.

She needs to reclaim voters lost to the Left after the ETS was shelved, and repair the damage done by the war with the mining sector.

In an act of good faith, within hours of being elected unopposed as Labor leader, Ms Gillard said she was “throwing open the government’s door to the mining industry”.

While insisting that like the former prime minister she believes Australians are entitled to a fairer share of the nation’s mineral wealth, Ms Gillard conceded the resources super profits tax needed changes.

“But to reach a consensus, we need to do more than consult. We need to negotiate.

“And we must end this uncertainty, which is not good for this nation.”

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With the decision to shelve the ETS having been so damaging for Mr Rudd, the new prime minister has moved to align herself with millions of voters concerned about climate change.

“It is my intention to lead a government that does more to harness the wind and the sun and the new emerging technologies,” she said, adding she believed human beings had contributed to climate change.

“It is as disappointing to me as it is to millions of Australians that we do not have a price on carbon.”

Ms Gillard will seek a mandate, as Mr Rudd did in 2007, to take action against climate change.

“If elected as prime minister, I will re-prosecute the case for a carbon price at home and abroad.”

Winning votes back from the Right may be somewhat more difficult.

In terms of the economy, Ms Gillard has committed to sticking with the Rudd government’s timeline for returning the budget to surplus by 2012-13.

With the issue of asylum seekers again looming as a key election battlefront, Ms Gillard also hinted at a tougher border protection regime.

“I understand that Australians are disturbed when they see boats arrive on our shores unannounced.

“Australians wanted strong border management and I will provide it.”

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