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Former Australia PM Rudd quits politics

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd announced an end to his chequered political career Wednesday, quitting politics two months after being ousted from office by Tony Abbott.

The charismatic 55-year-old Labor stalwart, who led Australia twice and was foreign minister in Julia Gillard's government, said he would leave parliament at the end of the week.

"This has been the product of much soul-searching for us as a family over the last few months," he told parliament in an emotional evening speech in which he had to pause several times to compose himself.

"The decision that I have made has not been taken lightly.

"But for me, my family is everything, always has been, always will be, which is why I will not be continuing as a member of this parliament beyond this week."

Since being soundly defeated by Abbott in September 7 elections, senior figures within Labor have urged him to quit, saying he would be a destabilising influence after three years of bitter infighting within the party.

The Mandarin-speaking Rudd stood down as Labor leader after his election loss but remained the local member for his Queensland electorate of Griffith.

He was elected prime minister in the 2007 general election in a landslide defeat of John Howard, but within his first term he was dumped by colleagues fed up with his style of management and demoted to foreign minister.

There were claims of egotism -- even megalomania -- behind the scenes and a series of policy mis-steps gave party members the pretext to depose him in shock coup that delivered Gillard to office.

His sudden downfall mystified the Australian public who had elected him, and this, coupled with the growing unpopularity of Gillard, prompted Labor to return to Rudd's leadership in June to try and salvage the party vote in 2013 polls.

In announcing his retirement from political life, Rudd thanked the people of Australia for electing him as their prime minister.

"To have served as prime minister of Australia has been a great honour afforded to very few in our country's history," he said.

His arch foe Abbott said Rudd had been one of the biggest figures in Australia politics in recent decades and wished him well.

"As a political opponent, but as someone who has known the member for Griffith quite well for a long time, I salute him and I wish him and his family all the best for the future," he said.

In his future life, Rudd said he planned to support causes for homelessness and organ donation and establish a "national apology foundation" to aid indigenous Australians.

He also intends to remain active in the international community "where I can make a genuine contribution to peace and stability, global economic governance and sustainable development, including climate change".

mp/ia

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131113/former-australia-pm-rudd-quits-politics