New Australian PM Rudd urges 'gentler' politics

SYDNEY (AFP) - Kevin Rudd called for a "kinder, gentler" approach to politics Thursday after being sworn in as Australia's new prime minister almost three years to the day since he was ruthlessly ousted from the job by Julia Gillard.

The 55-year-old sealed his dramatic return after a leadership ballot on Wednesday, in which Ms Gillard, the country's first female premier, was deposed in a party-room vote and announced her retirement from politics.

With Labor desperately fighting for electoral survival, Mr Rudd used his first speech to parliament since seizing back power to acknowledge that politics could be brutal.

"Political life is a very hard life, a very hard life indeed," he said. "Occasionally it can be kind, more often it is not."

He asked MPs to "be a little kinder and a gentler with each other in the further deliberations of this parliament" while praising Ms Gillard.

"Through the difficult years of minority government the former prime minister has achieved major reforms for our nation that will shape our country's future," he said.

"On top of all that, I acknowledge her great work as a standard-bearer for women in our country."

Mr Rudd's resurrection marks a stunning turnaround for the former premier who will now lead Labor to elections scheduled for September 14, which polls predict Tony Abbott's conservative opposition will win by a landslide.

Six key ministers resigned in the aftermath of Ms Gillard's dumping, including her most loyal supporter, Treasurer and deputy leader Wayne Swan.

On Thursday, Ms Gillard's Transport Minister Anthony Albanese was sworn in as Mr Rudd's deputy while former Immigration Minister Chris Bowen was appointed treasurer. Labor's popularity has tanked under Ms Gillard but Mr Rudd, who ended a decade of conservative rule with a comprehensive 2007 election win, remains popular with voters and his elevation is expected to give the party a significant boost.

John Wanna, a politics professor at the Australian National University, said Mr Rudd could help reverse the slide.

"His message is much better than Ms Gillard's, that's been very clear. He's a populist." he said.

Analysts are tipping Mr Rudd will bring the election forward to August 24 in order to capitalise on an expected surge in Labor's popularity, although Albanese said a "proper discussion" was needed first.

Ms Gillard called Wednesday's leadership ballot after a day of internal party manoeuvring in favour of her arch-rival.

Rudd won the vote of Labor lawmakers 57 to 45 - the third time since the 2010 election that embattled Ms Gillard's hold on power was tested.