Kevin Rudd to contest Labor leadership

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has declared his candidacy for the country's top job, setting the scene for a party room showdown on Monday.In a dramatic, but widely expected announcement, the former foreign minister said he would contest the Labor Party leadership.He appealed to his parliamentary colleagues to consider his record, but, critically, he said if he failed he would not challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard again."I would go to the back bench and I would not challenge Ms Gillard a second time," he said.The former foreign minister has spent days laying the ground work for the announcement, setting out his ideas on manufacturing, economic growth and the environment.The Illawarra's two Labor MPs - Throsby MP Stephen Jones and Cunningham MP Sharon Bird - have pledged their support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who seems to have the overwhelming suport of her parliamentary colleagues.During his press conference Mr Rudd took aim at critics of his time as Prime Minister claiming he has been made a scapegoat for the Government’s failures.“It is very easy to establish a frame where as all of the government's problems are caused by someone called K-Rudd," he said.“If I didn’t exist, people would have cast around for an alternative leader of the Australian Labor Party due to historically low polling numbers.”He suggested Labor Party would lose Government if he was not given a chance."If we don’t change the Labor Party is going to end up in opposition - we will all end up on the back bench and the opposition back bench. That is the cold stark reality we face," he said.Mr Rudd outlined his record as Prime Minister, starting with his role in pulling Australia out of the Global Financial Crisis.“We [recovered from the crisis] through cabinet committees, we did it through cabinet working groups…we arrived at a solution which is now regarded by the IMF and other organisations as the copy book response,” he said.Mr Rudd said if he failed he would be happy to try and explore his passion for policy from the back bench.“I’m quite relaxed about that. What are my passions - Australia’s future in the world,” he said."I would go to the back bench and I would not challenge Ms Gillard a second time," he said.Mr Rudd believes Labor must return to its core values. “So much of what we have achieved is at risk and so much of what we must achieve in the future,” he said.“We need to rediscover those policies which are unmistakably, unambiguously Labor.”He said opposition leader Tony Abbott’s policies were stuck in the past and that “Australia can do better”.“He is not, as they say in The Castle, ‘an ideas man’,” he said.If voted in he said he would make changes to the Labor Party to try and blunt the power of the party’s internal factions, and appealed to colleagues not be bullied into voting for Ms Gillard.“There should be a truly secret ballot.“Australians are sick and tired of outside forces calling the shots. Members of our parliamentary party should be able to vote as they choose,” he said.

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