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Australia gets first female prime minister after shake-up

CANBERRA, Australia - Australia got its first female prime minister today after the ruling party dumped Kevin Rudd and installed his deputy as leader.

Julia Gillard will lead the government in elections due within months. She stood unopposed at a vote of the Labor Party's 112 lawmakers at a meeting today, hours after a revolt against Rudd.

Rudd didn't even stand for reappointment in the vote, a signal that he knew his support had collapsed.

Rudd had ridden high in opinion polls as one of the most popular Australian prime ministers of modern times until he made major policy backflips, including a decision in April to shelve plans to make Australia's worst polluters pay for their carbon gas emissions.

The leadership change is unlikely to alter key policy positions, such as Australia's troop commitment to Afghanistan.

The government's key financial minister, Treasurer Wayne Swan, was elected deputy prime minister unopposed.

Gillard was born in Barry, Wales, in 1961, the second daughter of a family who migrated to Adelaide, Australia, when she was a 4-year-old child.

A former successful lawyer, she has been attacked by some opponents as unsuitable to lead because she is childless and thus out of touch with most Australians. Supporter Sen. Kate Lundy said Gillard will turn around the government's poor polling that triggered the leadership challenge. - AP

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