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Australia gets first female Deputy Prime Minister

By Kathy Marks in Sydney

Julia Gillard, a feisty Welsh-born redhead once accused of being unfit for leadership because she was "deliberately barren", is having the last laugh on her critics as she prepares to become Australia's first female Deputy Prime Minister.

The newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, will name most members of his cabinet on Thursday and Ms Gillard, deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party, is already assured of the number two position. Then, when Mr Rudd flies to Bali next week for a UN conference on climate change, a woman will be running Australia for the first time.

Ms Gillard, 46, a former trade union lawyer, will also become minister for industrial relations dismantling unpopular workplace reforms believed to have played a significant role in the defeat of John Howard's Liberal-National Party Coalition.

Ms Gillard, whose family moved to Adelaide in the 1960s from Barry in south Wales, may have helped to smooth Labour's path to victory by being a drawcard for voters. She told The Australian newspaper during the election campaign: "There's a real 'go girl' factor there. It's not just from women ... [there's] a sense from men that they do want to see a female face in and around the top of politics."

Ms Gillard, who has spent much of her adulthood in Melbourne, is no stranger to criticism. During the election campaign Mr Howard's deputy and the long-time Treasurer, Peter Costello, accused her of Communist Party links and she was portrayed as a union stooge.

But the forthright and personable Ms Gillard should have no problem surviving in the bear pit of national politics. She observed after Labour's election victory: "Politics is not for the faint-hearted, and I think I am a resilient person."

Belfast Telegraph


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