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Australia's new PM makes few cabinet changes

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June 28, 2010

Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday unveiled her new cabinet, making minimum changes to the front-bench of her predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Prime Minister Gillard promoted no fresh ministers to her cabinet and even dropped Rudd from the list. But she said she would offer him a senior cabinet post if Labour Party is re-elected at the looming election.

“It is best to have as limited a reshuffle as possible to keep maximum stability among the team and to keep our focus on the work that Australians need the government to be doing,” 49-year-old Gillard said.

Gillard, who spearheaded the rebellion against 51-year-old Rudd opposing his policies on health, education and climate change, was last week sworn-in as Australia’s first woman Prime Minister.

Former Trade Minister Simon Crean takes over Gillard’s portfolios of employment, industrial relations and social inclusion. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith adds trade to his portfolio.

Gillard said the new government will be focused on delivering “hard-working Australians”, a strengthening economy and a renewed focus on services.

“I am not making any assumptions about what will happen on election day. This will be a close hard-fought contest,” she said.

In a statement issued after cabinet reshuffle, Rudd, who was forced to resign following revolt within ruling Labour party last week, said he respects Gillard’s decision.

“Ultimately, decisions on Cabinet appointments are a matter for the Prime Minister,” Rudd said, adding “for the immediate future, my family and I have decided to take a break. I will be working in my own electorate of Griffith and in any other way deemed appropriate to support the re-election of the Government.”

Meanwhile, Gillard said she had spoken to Rudd about his future and he had confirmed he would run for his seat at the next election.

“Consequently, what I have said to Kevin Rudd is I would be absolutely delighted to see him serve as a senior cabinet minister in the team if the government is re-elected,” she said.

Gillard said she completely understood Rudd’s immediate desire to spend time with family.

“What I’ve said to Kevin is, that I think that this is the best course and it would enable him, if he chose to do so at this time, to spend more time with his family which I know is one of his key priorities in life,” she added.

Rudd, elected in 2007, had been one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made a series of policy backflips.

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