SYDNEY, Sept 11 (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed today that former leader Kevin Rudd will become her foreign minister, as she reshuffled her cabinet after narrowly winning government.
“The foreign affairs and defence team will be Kevin Rudd as minister for foreign affairs and Stephen Smith as the minister for defence,” Gillard told a news conference in Melbourne.Smith has served as foreign minister since Rudd won victory in a Labor landslide in November 2007. The defence ministry was vacant with long-serving John Faulkner opting to move to the backbench.
Gillard reshaped her cabinet after forming a minority government last week with the support of three independents and a Greens MP, after August 21 polls ended with a hung parliament.
The nation's first woman leader, who wrested the Labor leadership from Rudd in late June after he lost the support of key factional colleagues, said her promise to the independents to focus on regional Australia had been honoured.
Veteran parliamentarian Simon Crean, more recently trade minister, will lead a government department dedicated to regional Australia, she said. “This is delivering on the focus that I agreed with the independents in the house of representatives, it is delivering on a promise to regional Australia to focus on their needs,” Gillard said.
The prime minister said her deputy Wayne Swan would continue as Treasurer while Senator Penny Wong, who had managed Rudd's ill-fated climate change response as minister for that portfolio, will take on finance.
Martin Ferguson will remain minister for energy, resources and tourism while Craig Emerson will head to trade and Chris Evans, formerly immigration minister, will become the minister for jobs, skills and workplace relations.
Former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett, who presided over a bungled home insulation programme as Rudd's environment minister, will become minister for schools, early childhood and youth, Gillard said.
Greg Combet will become minister for climate change and energy efficiency.
“The new ministry will be dedicated to the development of a national response to climate change driven by a deep and lasting consensus of the Australian people,” Gillard said in a statement.
Chris Bowen will become minister for immigration -- a key issue in Australia where the increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat is believed to have contributed to the backlash against Labor.