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Rudd sworn in; transition unlikely to help Labor’s chances

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Kevin Rudd with his granddaughter Josephine after he was sworn in as Prime Minister in Canberra on Thursday— PHOTO: AFP
Kevin Rudd with his granddaughter Josephine after he was sworn in as Prime Minister in Canberra on Thursday— PHOTO: AFP

Kevin Rudd was sworn in as Australian Prime Minister for the second time on Thursday, a day after toppling Julia Gillard and three months ahead of elections in which opinion polls show the ruling Labor Party faces a devastating defeat.

This follows three years of squabbling within the Labor leadership and as the world’s 12th largest economy faces challenges stemming from a slowdown in top trade partner China.

Mr. Rudd has highlighted the difficulties associated with “the end of China’s resource boom” and said he would work to rebuild the government’s strained relations with the business community.

He left open the option of changing the September 14 election date, telling Parliament that Prime Ministers had the right to choose the date.

Australian business was scathing of the political instability and urged Mr. Rudd to abandon laws that strengthen trade union access to the workplace and tighten rules for temporary skilled immigration.

The favourite to win the coming elections, opposition leader Tony Abbott, has promised to scrap a carbon tax and a 30 per cent tax on iron ore and coal mine profits if he wins power.

He has also promised tighter control of public spending, a speedier return to surplus budgets and stronger economic growth.

Mr. Rudd’s first task will be a major cabinet reshuffle after a string of senior ministers loyal to Gillard resigned, including former Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Former Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was sworn in as Treasurer and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese was sworn in as deputy leader on Thursday.

Financial markets see few implications for the $1.5 trillion economy, struggling to cope with the end of a historic mining boom as commodity prices fall and a record pipeline in resource investment starts to falter.

Bonanza fades

Manufacturing has been hurt by a strong Australian dollar and other sectors of the economy are struggling to pick up the slack as the mining bonanza fades.

Illustrating the challenges, almost 1,000 jobs were cut from Australian coal mines this week alone.

Voters welcomed back Mr. Rudd, always among the most popular of politicians.

Mr. Rudd, Prime Minister from late 2007 until 2010, said thoughts of the good of the nation had spurred him to abandon a promise this year never to run for office again, following a failed bid to unseat Ms. Gillard.

Opinion polls had shown Ms. Gillard’s minority government could lose up to 35 seats, giving the conservative opposition a massive majority in the 150-member Parliament.

Analysts said the dramatic leadership change should help lift Labor’s standing in opinion polls, although the initial boost might not last until the elections and Labor was still likely to lose power.

Mr. Abbott has urged Mr. Rudd to call an election for early August to end the instability and to let voters decide who should be prime minister. — Reuters


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