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Monday, September 22, 2014         

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Former Aussie PM to visit US as foreign minister

By Rod McGuirk

Associated Press

POSTED:



CANBERRA, Australia » Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will visit the United States within days of being sworn in Tuesday in his new role as Australia's foreign minister.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who ousted Rudd in an internal party mutiny in June then led her Labor Party to a narrow election victory last month, fulfilled a promise by including him in a senior role in her Cabinet.

Before they were sworn in Tuesday by Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Gillard and Rudd announced he will visit Washington and New York from Friday through Sept. 25.

"This visit underlines the very high priority that the government places on its relations with the United States, Australia's key strategic partner," a joint statement said.

Rudd, a 53-year-old former diplomat to Beijing who speaks fluent Mandarin, endeavored during almost three years as prime minister to elevate Australia's influence in global affairs, and lobbied to gain Australia a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, was officially appointed the nation's 27th prime minister Tuesday for a second time in three months.

Gillard, a 48-year-old atheist, was also the first prime minister in the 109-year history of the Australian federation to take an affirmation of office instead of swearing on a Bible.

Rudd will stand in for Gillard in representing Australia at the U.N. General Assembly while in New York. It will be the third time he has addressed the assembly.

Opposition lawmakers have criticized Gillard for staying home to focus on domestic issues. Her government is the first in 67 years to rule without a parliamentary majority, and the defection of a single lawmaker could bring it down.

The key finance and economic job of treasurer was retained by Wayne Swan, who has held the post since the Rudd government was elected in 2007. Sen. Penny Wong, who had been the minister responsible for climate change issues, was named finance minister, replacing Lindsay Tanner, who retired after the last election.

Four key lawmakers pivotal in swinging party support against Rudd's leadership in June have been promoted in the new Cabinet. Gillard said the promotions were based on merit, rather than gratitude.

Parliament sits for the first time since the election on Sept. 28 when Gillard's control of her fragile minority government will likely be tested.

She is expected to make her first overseas trip as prime minister in November when she attends a leaders' summit of the Group of 20 economies in South Korea.






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