New Australian PM Rudd pledges to 'heal the wounds'

Newly returned Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday pledged to "heal the wounds" within his battered Labor Party, saying supporters of his ousted predecessor Julia Gillard were welcome in his cabinet.

Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce (L) stands alongside Kevin Rudd and his wife Therese Rein, after he was sworn in as Australia's new prime minister, at Government House in Canberra, on June 27, 2013. Rudd on Friday pledged to "heal the wounds" within his battered Labor Party, saying supporters of his ousted predecessor Julia Gillard were welcome in his cabinet.

The 55-year-old former China diplomat, who was overthrown in a brutal party room coup by Gillard three years ago, returned to power on Wednesday after winning back the support of the majority of his Labor colleagues.

"It is rare that a person is given a second opportunity to lead one of the major political parties of Australia. I regard it as a singular honour for that to have happened," he said in his first press conference after being sworn in as leader.

"It's important to heal the wounds, by making a very simple statement that those -- whatever their views of me in the past -- who wish to serve in the ministry in the future will be welcome to do so."

Gillard deposed Rudd in 2010 amid plunging confidence in his leadership and accusations of dysfunctional governance.

Rudd said there were three reasons he sought to return to politics, despite the infighting and bloodletting which followed his dumping which saw several top ministers resign their post.

"The first reason for my decision was that the government was on track for a catastrophic defeat at the upcoming elections," he said in Canberra.

He said the poll, currently scheduled for September 14, could have handed the conservative opposition headed by Tony Abbott a majority in both houses of parliament and allowed him to tear down reforms such as the national broadband network.

"I could not stand idly by and allow all these good changes... to simply be thrown away in the event that we suffered such a catastrophic defeat at the election. Hence it was time to put up my hand," he said.

Rudd, who came to power in a 2007 landslide which unseated former conservative prime minister John Howard, said he had picked up on a "mood" that people felt they were being forced to vote for Abbott because Gillard did not appeal to them.

"The third reason is I want to make some policy changes," he said, adding that there would be "no avalanche" of decisions, and he would be more consultative than in his last term -- a key criticism when he was toppled.

"If I learnt one thing from my previous period as prime minister, and I have learnt quite a lot... it is the absolute importance of proper orderly consultation with cabinet colleagues," he said.

Rudd is yet to name his full cabinet, but several ministers have already resigned their posts, including the treasurer and the ministers for trade, communications, climate change and agriculture.

Anthony Albanese was Thursday sworn in as Rudd's deputy and Chris Bowen his treasurer.

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Writer: AFP
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