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Julia Gillard defeats Kevin Rudd in Labor leadership ballot Julia Gillard defeats Kevin Rudd in Labor leadership ballot
(about 3 hours later)
Julia Gillard will remain as Australia's prime minister after winning the resounding backing of her Labor party colleagues in a leadership ballot against Kevin Rudd.
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The party room voted 71 to 31 to retain Gillard as leader of the party and therefore the country. It ends a week of vicious bloodletting by Labor parliamentarians, brought to a head with Kevin Rudd's resignation as foreign minister to mount a challenge. />

/>"This is an absolute massacre," Michael Glesson, strategist at political lobbying firm Hawker Britton, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
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the vote it was clear that the numbers were hardening against Rudd. He reminded fellow Labor MPs that he was more popular with the public. Opinion polls out on Monday put him ahead of Gillard as preferred prime minister by 53% to 28%.
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/>"Think carefully about the survivability of this government at the next election. Today's the day that you simply ask yourself: how do we best ensure that Tony Abbott doesn't become prime minister," he told Channel 7 before the vote.
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Labor members on all sides upped their calls for unity following the vote. The cabinet heavyweight and regional development minister Simon Crean called on the party to push forward and sell its message to the Australian people
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/>"It's incumbent on everyone out of this to put the past behind us and build for the future," he told ABC television.
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/>"We can win the next election but we won't do it if we are disunited and we are clouding our message."
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/>Kevin Rudd has said he will go to the backbench and will not challenge Gillard a second time.
Julia Gillard will remain as Australia's prime minister after winning the resounding backing of her Labor party colleagues in a leadership ballot against Kevin Rudd.
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/>The Labor party room voted 71 to 31 to retain Gillard as its leader and therefore as prime minister. It ends a week of vicious bloodletting by Labor parliamentarians, brought to a head with Kevin Rudd's resignation as foreign minister so he could mount a challenge.
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/>"I can assure you that this political drama is over," Gillard told a news conference.
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/>She said the Labor party would now unite and focus on winning the next general election, due in 2013.
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/>"I absolutely believe that united we can win the next election," she said, adding she was impatient to get on with the job.
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/>Gillard's leadership vote was the best result of any Labor leader in a challenge in 30 years.
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/>She said Australians should honour the achievements made by Kevin Rudd as prime minster and foreign minister, including his historic apology to the stolen generation of Aboriginal children.
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/>Kevin Rudd congratulated Gillard on her win and said he accepted the leadership ballot "without  qualification". He said Labor must now unite to win the next election.
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/>"To Julia, I say, I accept fully the verdict of the (Labor) caucus and I dedicated myself to working fully for her re-election."
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/>He will return to the backbench and continue to represent his electorate of Griffith in Brisbane, the capital of the state of Queensland.
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/>Rudd said he bore no grudges or malice towards ministers who may have spoken out against him in the past week in what has been widely reported as the most vicious leadership spat in Australian political history.
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/>"It's well past time that these wounds were healed," he said.
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/>Labor members of parliament on both sides of the leadership divide have called for the party to unite behind the prime minister.
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/>Speculation over her leadership has dogged Julia Gillard since she ousted Kevin Rudd in an internal party coup in 2010. Their centre-left Labor party scraped through elections later that year, which lead to a minority government in a hung parliament.
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/>Gillard faces an uphill battle convincing the electorate to back her. An opinion poll on Monday put Kevin Rudd ahead as preferred prime minister by a margin of 53% to 28%. Labor also trails the opposition in the polls, though its position has improved in the past few weeks.
Questions over the Labor leadership have dogged the party since Rudd was removed from office in 2010 in an internal party coup. The centre-left Labor party scraped through elections later that year to lead a minority government in a hung parliament. The party's support has been flat-lining at around 30% of the primary vote for months, though a poll out on Monday did show a slight improvement. The opposition has reiterated its call for an election.
The conservative opposition has again called for an election.