Gillard ‘Never More Ready’ for Australian Election Year Battles

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, lagging in opinion polls ahead of an election that must be held by November, said she is ready for the political skirmishes and the campaign ahead.

“Entering 2013, I’ve never felt more ready,” Gillard wrote in a letter published in the Sunday Telegraph today.

Gillard’s Labor Party had 32 percent support in a Dec. 10 Newspoll survey, while Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National opposition attracted 46 percent. Gillard ended the year under attack over her work as a labor union lawyer 20 years ago while her government last month gave up a pledge to deliver a budget surplus in the current fiscal year.

Gillard leads a minority government after winning the closest Australian election in seven decades in 2010, just three months after winning the prime minister’s job in a party coup against predecessor Kevin Rudd.

Australia’s first female leader has countered that Abbott, whom she accused of sexism and misogyny in an October speech in parliament, was using negative tactics in a campaign to smear her reputation.

The government’s policy priority this year will be “a giant leap forward in education,” Gillard wrote in her letter. “I will do everything necessary to make sure we properly fund schools and drive school improvement so every child in every school is getting a great education.”

Other focuses will be on support and services to families, national security, implementing the national broadband network for Australian homes and modernizing infrastructure, she said.

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