Barry Island girl becomes Aussie PM

By staff

Julia Gillard, originally from Barry Island in south Wales, has become the first female prime minister of Australia.

Her appointment followed dramatic scenes as the country’s Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, was forced from office after losing the confidence of his party.

Mr Rudd did not even bother to take part in the ballot, so severe was his decline in popularity.

It was a far cry from his previously robust levels of support. Mr Rudd started the new year as one of the most popular prime minister’s in Australia’s history. But a U-turn on a carbon trading system saw a spectacular loss of confidence in the prime minister, in a nation which values hard fighters and frowns on signs of weakness.

Viewed as a somewhat robotic and uninspiring figure, Mr Rudd surprised many observers by delivering a highly emotional farewell speech in which he fought back tears on several occasions.

“I have given it my absolute all and in that spirit I am proud of the achievements we have delivered to make this country fairer,” he said.

“I’m proud of the fact that we kept Australia out of the global financial crisis.

“I’m proud of the fact that had we not done so, we would have had half a million Australians out there out of work.”

Ms Gillard vowed to revive Labor ahead of an expected general election in October after standing unopposed at a vote of the party’s 112 MPs.

“I came to the view that a good government was losing its way,” she said.

“I believe too I have a responsibility to make sure at the next election that Labor is there at its strongest.”

She said of Mr Rudd: “He was the leader who saw us through the global financial crisis “He came within a breath of brokering an international agreement on climate change.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan became deputy leader – Ms Gillard’s old post.

Born in Barry Island, Ms Gillard left Wales for Australia when aged four.