Australia's Kevin Rudd to contest in a leadership vote against Gillard

Kevin Rudd

Australia's former foreign minister Kevin Rudd said on Friday he would contest a leadership vote against Prime Minister Julia Gillard, bringing to a head the bitter leadership fight engulfing the minority government.

Rudd, who was ousted by Gillard in June 2010, said he was the best person to lead the governing Labor Party into the next election, due in late 2013.

Rightly or wrongly Julia has lost the trust of the Australian people and starting on Monday I want to start restoring that trust, Rudd told reporters in his home town of Brisbane.

I want to finish the job the Australian people elected me to do when they elected me to become prime minister.

Gillard has called a leadership vote for Monday after Rudd suddenly quit as foreign minister on Wednesday, hoping the early vote would enable her to stamp her authority over the governing Labor Party and head off Rudd's hopes of building support.

The leadership crisis was prompted by poor opinion polls which show the government would be decimated at the next election.

Gillard's supporters say she has clear majority support within the Labor Party and that she would easily win a leadership showdown against Rudd. She has called on Rudd to abandon any leadership ambitions if he loses.

Polls show Rudd remains more popular with voters, and he has called for Australians to get behind his campaign to return as prime minister.

Rudd said he would remain in parliament and would not mount a second challenge if he loses on Monday.

A surprise Rudd victory on Monday could spark an early election, as there is no guarantee he will win the backing of key independents needed to control a majority in parliament. That, in turn, would risk major reforms, including a carbon tax and a 30 percent tax on coal and iron ore mines.

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