Profile: Australian Labor Party leader Julia Gillard

09:40, August 21, 2010      

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Australia holds its 43rd Parliamentary elections on Saturday with the ruling Labor Party running neck-and-neck with the Liberal Party-led Collision. Following is the profile of Labor Party leader Julia Eileen Gillard.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard launches a speech in workers club in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 20, 2010. Australia will hold the general election on Aug. 21. (Xinhua/Huang Xiaoyong)

Julia Eileen Gillard, a Welsh-born Australian lawyer and politician, is Australia's first female Prime Minister since June 2010. After the resignation of Kevin Rudd, Gillard was elected unopposed as Leader of the Australian Labor Party at a special caucus meeting on 24 June 2010, making her the first female leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

She was sworn in as the 27th Prime Minister of Australia on June 24, 2010.

As deputy to Kevin Rudd, whom she replaced without a ballot, she was seen as one of the government's top performers in parliament and the media, after the Labor Party's landslide win in 2007 election.

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.

Born in the England Welsh town in 1961, Gillard migrated to Australia with her parents when she was four.

She graduated with a law degree in 1986 from the University of Melbourne, then worked for a firm specializing in class actions and industrial relations after graduating from university.

Gillard was 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 2007.

Since Dec. 3, 2007, Gillard has been the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, the first woman and the first foreign-born person to hold this position.

She is also the Minister for Education, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Social Inclusion.

Like her predecessor Rudd, Gillard has maintained health as a priority in her agenda. She has announced that if she is re- elected, there will be an increase of 270 placements for emergency doctors and nurses and 3,000 extra nursing scholarships over the next 10 years. Mental health would be a priority in her second term, with a 277 million dollars (247 million U.S. dollars) suicide-prevention package which would target high-risk groups.

Gillard has taken a tougher stance on asylum seekers, with plans of establishing a process center to be possibly located in Timor-Leste.

Meanwhile, Gillard has also unveiled her climate change plans during the election campaign in Brisbane. It includes a 150-person citizens assembly to work on a consensus for climate change and a crackdown on dirty power plants, a one billion Australian dollars (900 million U.S. dollars) investment into greening the electricity grid and also further investment into green technology. A 2,000 Australian dollars (1,790 U.S. dollars) subsidy for cashing in old cars was also announced to reduce pollution. Reaction to this by Australian businesses has been positive.

On July 17, Prime Minister Gillard called for an election to be held on Aug. 21.



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