Kevin Rudd, Australia's former prime minister, quits federal politics

Former  Australian PM, Kevin Rudd on September 6, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.

Story highlights

  • Party infighting caused the Labor Party the prime ministership
  • In 2009, Rudd formally apologized to the Forgotten Australians

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd bid farewell to politics, telling parliamentarians Wednesday in an emotional speech that he will step down at the end of the week.

Rudd was first elected prime minister in 2007. Party infighting caused him to lose the post to Julia Gillard in 2010.

He reclaimed the position in June in yet more infighting in the Labor Party.

But when it came to elections in September, the bookish incumbent lost to the pugnacious style of Tony Abbott.

Labor infighting boosted Abbott's standing in the polls and -- under Gillard -- the party faced certain defeat at elections this year.

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While the installation of Rudd as prime minister for a second time helped the party claw back some of the ground Labor lost under Gillard, many analysts said his arrival came too late to save the party.

"For our family, recent statements since the September election have been particularly hurtful," Rudd told lawmakers. "As parliamentarians you might say we become inured to all of this, although I doubt it."

Abbot's office issued a statement saying "While Mr Rudd will no longer continue as a parliamentarian, I have every confidence that he will continue to serve our country and the values that he has always believed in."

"Whatever disagreements my colleagues and I have had with Mr Rudd, we will always honour what he achieved on the day of the National Apology," the statement said. "Ancient wrongs were addressed that day. It was a great moment in our country's history and it happened because of him."

In November 2009, Rudd -- then the prime minister -- formally apologized to thousands of adults who, as impoverished British children, were brought to Australia with the promise of a better life but found abuse and forced labor.

The so-called Forgotten Australians -- children who came from British families struggling with severe poverty or from institutions in the UK -- were brought to Australia in a program that ended 40 years ago.