CANBERRA, July 1 Australian Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd rewarded backers who helped him reclaim power from Julia
Gillard with places in the new ministry he announced on Monday,
while a new poll showed a strong bounce for his Labor Party
before national elections.
Rudd included 11 women in his ministry, potentially helping
him counter a backlash from female voters after he defeated
Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, in a party
leadership vote on Wednesday.
Labor reinstalled Rudd, who was prime minister from late
2007 until mid-2010, after dire opinion polls indicated the
government would suffer an overwhelming defeat under Gillard.
An influential Newspoll in The Australian newspaper on
Monday found Rudd's return had given the Labor Party a
significant boost, lifting the party's vote by six percentage
points from 43 percent to 49 percent over the past week.
The poll showed the conservative opposition was still ahead
on the key two-party vote after the distribution of preferences
from minor parties, although its support fell from 57 percent to
51 over the past week.
Rudd has also overtaken opposition leader Tony Abbott as
preferred prime minister, with 49 percent support compared with
35 percent for Abbott. Gillard had consistently trailed Abbott
as preferred prime minister.
"Rudd's resurrection has changed the political dynamic and
shifted the pressure to Abbott," wrote The Australian's
political editor Dennis Shanahan.
Rudd can call an election for any time from mid-August, but
is considering delaying the vote until October to give his
government time to review key policies. The government could
lose power if it drops just one seat in the 150-seat parliament.
Rudd rewarded supporters in his new ministry, with former
defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon returning to Cabinet as
agriculture minister and former industry minister Kim Carr back
as minister for innovation and higher education.
Last week, Rudd appointed his key supporter Chris Bowen as
treasurer to replace Gillard loyalist Wayne Swan. Finance
Minister Penny Wong, who backed Rudd in the leadership vote,
retained her portfolio.
Rudd rejected suggestions the appointments were political
and said all of his ministers were chosen on merit.
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Paul Tait)