Page MP Janelle Saffin and newly-appointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard pictured on the North Coast earlier this year.
Page MP Janelle Saffin and newly-appointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard pictured on the North Coast earlier this year.

Local MPs back Gillard

KEVIN Rudd was a good Prime Minister and a decent man, but Australia is in good hands with Julia Gillard, Page MP Janelle Saffin said yesterday.

Ms Saffin and Richmond MP Justine Elliot both threw their support behind Australia’s first female Prime Minister yesterday as the region’s Nationals and Liberal candidates said the change did not alter the mistakes that sent Labor spiralling in the polls.

Ms Gillard was elected unopposed after Mr Rudd decided at the last minute not to contest a leadership spill at Parliament House yesterday. Treasurer Wayne Swan was elected to the deputy’s post, also unopposed.

The spill came after months of sliding polls for Labor, the latest of which suggested the Government would lose the looming election.

Ms Gillard said she had challenged for the leadership “because I believed that a good Government was losing its way”.

She moved quickly to put

her stamp on the Government and to defuse its most damaging issue – the new mining tax – by vowing to scrap the unpopular ad campaign supporting the tax and to negotiate with mining companies about the tax.

The move won immediate praise, with BHP announcing it would scrap its own ad campaign on the tax.

Ms Gillard also renewed her commitment to tackling climate change – another sore point in the electorate – promising more effort in harnessing wind and solar power and a renewed effort to seek a mandate for an emissions trading scheme from the electorate.

Mr Rudd surprised many after the vote by saying he intended to remain in Parliament and to contest the next election.

He was expected to be given the Foreign Minister’s post, with the existing Minister, Stephen Smith, likely to take over Ms Gillard’s portfolios of Education and Workplace Relations.

Back in Lismore yesterday, Ms Saffin acknowledged the historic nature of Ms Gillard’s ascension to the nation’s top job, but said, at the same time, it was also “unremarkable” in contemporary Australian society.

Ms Saffin said men still outnumbered women in senior positions, but Australians now easily accepted women in leadership roles.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot, who was reportedly planning to vote for Ms Gillard in the leadership spill, was not available to speak about the leadership change, but issued a statement saying she welcomed the appointment of the new Prime Minister.

“Julia understands the issues that are important to us on the North Coast,” Ms Elliot said.

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