Australian opposition attacks 'divided' government

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The Independent Online

Australia's resurgent opposition party officially launched its election campaign today with an attack on a bitterly-divided government while the prime minister pledged to fight through the adversity facing her party.

The conservative Liberal Party campaign launch comes a week before the ruling Labour Party's, with most opinion polls pointing to a change of government in the August 21 general elections.

The Labour Party has faced a series of setbacks, including opposition to a proposed profits tax on mining companies, public disenchantment over a lack of climate change policy and in-party animosity.

Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister in June in a surprise Labour Party coup, to become Australia's first female leader.

"It's time to end this soap opera and to give Australia back a grown-up government," Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott told a gathering of party faithful in Brisbane today.

Lingering anger over Mr Rudd's sudden ousting has overshadowed Ms Gillard's attempt to win a second three-year term for her centre-left government.

She has had to deal with a string of government leaks to the media, including claims she unsuccessfully argued in confidential Cabinet meetings against increasing pensions because old people did not vote for Labour.

"I'm not going to be distracted by the hurdles in my way," Ms Gillard told Nine Network television in an interview Sunday. "I'm going to crash through them."

Mr Rudd has accepted Ms Gillard's invitation to join her campaign for the sake of party unity and she has promised him a senior ministry if Labour wins.

Mr Rudd posed with the prime minister for photographs today for the first time since he was dumped.

"You could cut the tension in that room with a chain saw," body-language expert Steve van Apron told Nine Network.

Ms Gillard will officially launch Labour's campaign in Brisbane on August 16.

Australian political parties usually hold their launches close to an election date because many voters do not seriously consider their choices until the final few weeks.