Julia Gillard

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Julia Gillard

Julia Eileen Gillard (born 29 September, 1961), Australian politician, has been an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives since October 1998, representing the Division of Lalor, Victoria. She has been Shadow Minister for Health since July, 2003.

Gillard was born in Barry, Wales. In 1966, she migrated to Australia with her family, settling in South Australia. At university, she became involved in student politics, in 1983 becoming the second woman to lead the Australian Union of Students. It was also at this time that she began her association with the Australian Labor Party.

Gillard subsequently moved to Melbourne, and in 1986 graduated from Melbourne University with law and arts degrees. In 1987 she joined the law firm Slater and Gordon, working in the area of industrial law. In 1990 she was admitted as one of their first women partners.

From 1996 to 1998, Gillard served as Chief-of-Staff to Victorian Opposition Leader, John Brumby. She was responsible for drafting the affirmative action rules within the Labor Party in Victoria, setting the target of women being preselected in 35 percent of winnable seats within a decade. She also played a role in the foundation of Emily's List, the fund-raising and support network for Labor women.

Gillard was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1998 election as member for the Division of Lalor. After the party's defeat at the 2001 election she was elected to the Shadow Cabinet, with the portfolio of Population and Immigration. In February, 2003 she was given the additional portfolios of Reconciliation and Indigenous Affairs.

As Shadow Minister for Immigration, Gillard accused the Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, of favouring visa applications from people who had made donations to the Liberal Party. She developed a new immigration policy for the Labor Party, in the hope of neutralising immigration as an election issue, after the role of the Tampa affair in Labor's 2001 election loss.

Gillard was promoted to the position of Shadow Health Minister in July, 2003. This move may have prompted the government's decision to move then-Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, into the health portfolio. Additionally, she gained responsibility for managing opposition business in the House of Representatives.

In the aftermath of the Labor loss at the October 2004 election, it was speculated that Gillard may challenge Jenny Macklin for the deputy leadership. Though she initially refused to deny that she would challenge, she ruled it out several days later.

When Shadow Treasurer Simon Crean announced that he would not seek re-appointment to the portfolio, Gillard was widely tipped as a potential candidate. She was known to have the support of Latham, though he came under strong factional pressure to appoint either Stephen Smith or Wayne Swan instead. This was attributed to several factors - Gillard's position in the left wing of the party, her relative lack of economic experience and her position as a clear Latham ally.

Gillard has been touted as a potential future leader of the party for some years, but until 2005, had stayed out of previous leadership contests due to her absolute support for former leaders Simon Crean and Mark Latham. However, Latham resigned as leader in January 2005, and Gillard emerged as a possible successor, along with Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd.

Gillard was holidaying in Vietnam at the time of Latham's resignation and did not commit herself to contesting the leadership. Despite belonging to the Socialist Left faction, she had the support of some in the Right, such as former leader Crean. She began a period of canvassing support within the Party, amid media rumours that her supporters planned for her to supplant Jenny Macklin as Deputy Leader. Gillard expressed her exasperation with the leading Right figures backing Kim Beazley's leadership bid, claiming that they were using the media to undermine her [1] (http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,12028899-421,00.html). On 25 January she announced that she would not be contesting the leadership, allowing Beazley to be elected unopposed.

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