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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 14:18 GMT
Australia's Labor gets new leader
Newly-elected Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd (right) and deputy leader Julia Gillard
Mr Rudd's running mate Julia Gillard is now the party's deputy leader
Australia's opposition Labor Party has chosen former diplomat Kevin Rudd as a new head to lead it into next year's polls against the ruling conservatives.

Mr Rudd, 49, defeated incumbent party leader Kim Beazley by 49 to 39 votes in a ballot of Labor lawmakers.

Mr Beazley called the ballot last week amid party members' concerns that he would not be able to defeat PM John Howard in the 2007 elections.

Labor suffered two poll defeats under Mr Beazley, in 1998 and 2001.

At his first press conference as the party leader, Mr Rudd vowed to end what he described as "short-termism" of Australian politics under Mr Howard, saying the nation was facing stark choices.

"This fork in the road has emerged because John Howard has taken a bridge too far in industrial relations, a bridge too far in Iraq, a bridge too far on climate change," he said.

He promised a new style of leadership but said he was sticking to the Labor's main pledges of withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq and signing the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.

China ties

Mr Rudd also said he would seek strengthening ties with China, but not at the expense of Canberra's relations with the US - a key ally with whom the country has a defence pact.

"I'm rock solid on the alliance with the United States. I have never seen that as being mutually exclusive of a strong relationship with the People's Republic of China. You'll see strong emphasis from us on both those relationships," he said.

Mr Rudd - a fluent Mandarin speaker who had diplomatic postings in Beijing and Stockholm - is Labor's fourth leader in as many years.

His running mate Julia Gillard was elected the party's deputy chief.

Timeline: Australia
25 Aug 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Australia
11 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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