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Gillard retains Australian leadership after challenge flop

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
March 21, 2013 -- Updated 1012 GMT (1812 HKT)
Prime Minister Julia Gillard during House of Representatives question time on March 21, 2013 in Canberra, Australia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard during House of Representatives question time on March 21, 2013 in Canberra, Australia.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Gillard says leadership issue settled conclusively
  • No challenges emerged to contest Australian leadership
  • Kevin Rudd said he wouldn't stand against Julia Gillard
  • Prime Minister Gillard called leadership vote for Thursday

(CNN) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has survived another attempt to oust her from the job after no challengers emerged to vie for the leadership of the governing party and the country.

In a short statement after the vote, Gillard said she accepted the support of her colleagues "with a sense of deep humility and a sense of resolve."

She said that leadership uncertainty that had been blighting the party in recent months was settled "in the most conclusive fashion possible."

READ: Party keeps faith with Gillard but will voters?

One hundred Labor caucus members had been due to vote, but in the end, no votes were cast because there were no candidates beyond Gillard for prime minister, and Wayne Swan as her deputy.

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"There was no vote because there were no opposing candidates," said ALP returning officer Chris Hayes.

"It puts beyond doubt the question of leadership in the Australian Labor Party," he added.

Minutes before the meeting of Australian Labor Party (ALP) caucus members, former leader Kevin Rudd made it clear that he would not be pitting himself against his former rival.

"I'm not prepared to dishonor my word," he told reporters. He was referring to comments he made last February after mounting an unsuccessful bid to depose Gillard. At the time he said he wouldn't try again.

Rudd lost that poll 31 to Gillard's 71, but the decisive vote failed to end speculation about a leadership challenge amid a poor performance by the prime minister in public polls.

Gillard called the vote for 4:30 p.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET) after being pushed by long-time Labor minister Simon Crean.

Crean called a press conference and dramatically challenged Rudd to stand up and bring an end to bitter infighting.

"I don't want any more games, I'm sick to death of it, it's about time he stood up and instead of having his camp leak things, actually have the courage of his conviction and his beliefs," Crean said.

Before the vote, Crean said he wouldn't be nominating himself as leader, but would take the job of deputy. Until Thursday, he was Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, and Minister for the Arts.

An uneasy tension has existed between Rudd and Gillard since his former deputy staged a successful bid to replace him in June 2010. Soon after, she assigned him to the post of foreign minister.

Gillard reinforced her claim to power by winning a general election in August 2010. However the vote produced the first hung parliament in Australia since 1940.

The Welsh-born politician secured enough support from the Australian Greens Party, and independents, to form a minority government.

However last month, the Greens pulled their support, with leader Christine Milne accusing the Gillard government of ''walking away from its agreement with the Greens and into the arms of the big miners.''

The parties clashed over a number of issues, not least a controversial mining tax and a move by the government to reject World Heritage Listing for the Tarkine wilderness in north west Tasmania.

In January, Gillard surprised the country by calling an election for September 14, the longest lead time for an Australian election in history.

At the time, experts warned the tactic could backfire.

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