Returned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Returned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Rudd yet to name date for Aussies to head to polls

RETURNED Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has refused to name a date for Australians to head to the polls.

After spending the morning at Government House getting sworn-in as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd did not take questions from the media despite a number of key issues hanging over the first days of his government.

Chief among those was a new date for the election, if indeed he decides to change the September 14 date set by former prime minister Julia Gillard, and the make-up of his frontbench.

The latter will be significant task considering five Cabinet ministers have already quit since the spill, including former treasurer Wayne Swan.

Chris Bowen (Treasurer) and Regional Development Minister Anthony Albanese (Deputy Prime Minister) were sworn in as Mr Swan's replacement on Thursday morning.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced he was would remain in the Cabinet but was retiring politics at the election.

Speculation remained rife Mr Rudd would select a date in late August for the election, although in theory he could call it as late as November under the Constitution.

The Coalition used question time and a matter of public importance debate to hound Mr Rudd about the date and a range of issues dating back to his last stint in The Lodge.

Any threat of a constitutional crisis failed to materialise as the Opposition failed to even try moving a no-confidence motion against the government.

On the issue of the election date Mr Rudd said other issues - including the local government referendum, the G20 conference in Russia and the fact September 14 clashed with Yom Kippur - would need to be considered before making a decision.

Mr Abbott said the public was "over the parliamentary shenanigans" and wanted an election as soon as possible.

He said voters wanted a return to "strong and stable government", meaning "a vote for the Coalition", and demanded Mr Rudd explain his reasons for ousting Ms Gillard from the leadership.

During question time, Mr Rudd avoided making any funding commitments to regional areas.

Independent Rob Oakeshott if he would fund more than $3 billion of regional projects if he won the election.

Mr Rudd failed to answer the question directly, saying only that regional Australia was "etched deep in my heart".

Earlier in the day, new Senate Leader and long-time Gillard loyalist Penny Wong said shifting her support to Mr Rudd had been the "most difficult decision of my political life".

Senator Wong said Ms Gillard was a "remarkable woman" and a "great Labor champion" who had changed the nation through her policy decisions and the fact she was the first female prime minister.

"She's also a friend, but ultimately I wad to weight that personal loyalty against loyalty to the Labor Party and to the people we represent," Senator Wong told Radio National.

"I had to decide who I thought would offer the best contest at the next election against Tony Abbott, a man who I don't believe is worthy to be prime minister of this nation.

"So last week I have been privately weighing up those two loyalties and regrettably came to the view that they were no longer aligned."

Senator Wong said she met with Ms Gillard on Wednesday to inform her of the decision.

 

WHO'S OUT

  • Julia Gillard
  • Wayne Swan
  • Stephen Conroy
  • Greg Combet
  • Peter Garrett
  • Joe Ludwig
  • Craig Emerson

WHO'S IN

  • Anthony Albanese (Deputy Prime Minister)
  • Chris Bowen (Treasurer)

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