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New Australian leader works on climate change

Labor leader and prime minister-in-waiting Kevin Rudd smiles during his first press conference following his landslide victory in the federal elections in his hometown of Brisbane, 25 November 2007. Australia's 13.5 million voters ousted Prime Minister John Howard after over 11 years of conservative rule to install a centre-left government. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Nov 26, 2007
Australia's prime minister-elect Kevin Rudd got down to work Monday on plans to sign the Kyoto Protocol and reverse unpopular labour laws that led to conservative leader John Howard's ouster.

The centre-left leader is reshaping foreign and domestic policy following his landslide victory Saturday that ended Howard's 11-year reign and left US President George W. Bush standing alone on the issue of climate change.

A day after Rudd announced he was preparing to attend a major conference on global warming in Bali next month, his deputy Julia Gillard said their Labor Party would immediately honour a campaign promise to ratify Kyoto.

"Kevin will be making that decision but you can expect it to be very soon. We need to ratify Kyoto as part of our commitments to dealing with climate change," she told Australian television.

"Ratifying Kyoto we can do without the parliament sitting," she said, outlining plans to implement election pledges that also included withdrawing Australian combat troops from the Iraq war.

Howard's defeat stripped Bush of a key ally on the eve of the Bali conference. Australia and the United States are the only two major industrial nations not to have ratified Kyoto.

Rudd has said global warming will be his government's top priority, and on Sunday he discussed the issue with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Gillard also said work was beginning on rolling back Howard's workplace laws, which reduced worker protections and boosted the flexibility of employers -- and which proved to be unpopular on election day.

Voters rejected Howard in a comprehensive defeat that almost certainly also cost him his own electoral seat of 33 years, despite poll findings that most Australians believed his government was better equipped to manage the economy.

The shift, which has so far seen Labor snap up a huge parliamentary majority of at least 83 seats compared to outgoing government's 58, signals a sea-change towards social compassion, according to analysts.

"Our big job is to get our industrial relations legislation together," Gillard said, as Rudd worked on assembling his maiden cabinet, which he is expected to unveil later this week.

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Then there was one: US now alone as Kyoto holdout
Paris (AFP) Nov 24, 2007
Supporters of the Kyoto Protocol were gleeful on Saturday after Australian elections left the United States in the wilderness as the only major economy to boycott the UN's climate pact.

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