Kevin Rudd to step down as Australia's Labor chief

Supporters of conservative challenger Tony Abbott watch Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's address on a screen in Sydney on Saturday, Sept 7, 2013. Mr Rudd announced he would step down as Labor chief after a heavy defeat to the conservatives
Supporters of conservative challenger Tony Abbott watch Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's address on a screen in Sydney on Saturday, Sept 7, 2013. Mr Rudd announced he would step down as Labor chief after a heavy defeat to the conservatives in national elections on Saturday following years of leadership ructions. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced he would step down as Labor chief after a heavy defeat to the conservatives in national elections on Saturday following years of leadership ructions.

"I will not be recontesting the leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party. The Australian people I believe deserve a fresh start with our leadership," Mr Rudd said in his concession speech.

Mr Rudd took charge of centre-left Labor just weeks before calling Saturday’s election, toppling Australia’s firstfemale prime minister Julia Gillard in a party room coup due to sliding popularity in opinion surveys.

He was disposed of in identical circumstances by Ms Gillard ahead of the 2010 elections and the saga was seen as the major factor in Mr Rudd’s comprehensive defeat by conservative leader Tony Abbott on Saturday.

“My responsibility has been to maintain Labor as a fighting force for the future so that we can unite behind thenext leader of our party,” Mr Rudd told a gathering of the party faithful.