Position: Prime Minister of Australia
Incumbent: Julia Gillard, 48.
Term: Elected by Labor party. Government usually serves a three-year term but can call an election any time.
-- Gillard is Australia’s first female prime minister. Although her early political career was forged by Labor’s left wing, her ascendancy to prime minister was the result of right-wing powerbrokers in the party. She is regarded as an economic conservative and has promised to return the budget to surplus by 2012-13.
-- Gillard arrived in Australia, aged four, in the 1960s from south Wales, a cradle of Britain’s own Labour movement. Late British Labour politician Nye Bevan, son of a Welsh coal miner and who as health minister led the establishment of the National Health Service, remains one of her political heroes.
-- She graduated with a law degree in 1986 from the University of Melbourne, then became involved in politics via the Labor Club at the University of Adelaide and led the Australian Union of Students at Melbourne University.
-- In 1987, Gillard joined law firm Slater & Gordon, which specializes in class actions and personal injury cases. She became a partner at age 29 in 1990 and a political adviser in the late 1990s. She also helped promote women in politics.
-- After being elected to parliament in 1998, Gillard quickly rose to become a leading light of the Labor left, appointed shadow minister for population and immigration in 2001 and shadow health minister in 2003. She became deputy Labor leader in 2006.
-- She was appointed deputy prime minister in 2007 when Labor took power and became minister for education, labor and social inclusion. She toppled then-prime minister Kevin Rudd on June 24, 2010 in a Labor party coup.
-- Gillard’s Labor Party was scrambling to remain in power after preliminary results from an August 21, 2010 election showed it winning the largest number of seats but falling short of an outright majority.
-- A quick-witted politician, with a broad Australian accent and a working-class pedigree, Gillard is in many ways an old-school Labor politician, more reminiscent of Labor prime ministers from the 80s and 90s.
-- Gillard is known as a strong negotiator with an ability to consider alternative views and draw rivals into agreement. She ended a politically damaging row with global miners, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata, within days of being appointed prime minister by agreeing to water down a new resource tax. (Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by )