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Julia Gillard’s tenure so far has seen tumultuous highs and all-time lows, literally: from her internationally acclaimed misogyny speech, to her penchant for stumbling in highheels.

And everything in between. But losing this year’s federal election isn’t even on the 51-year-old’s radar. Gillard, Australia’s 16th longest-serving prime minister, “doesn’t spend any time considering it”. Positive mental attitude? “Absolutely,” she tells me. Gillard is taking time out of her manic schedule to speak to TNT – to remind the thousands of Aussie travellers and expats in London that, even though they’re overseas, their vote counts.

“A lot of people around the world fight and die for the right to vote, so it should never be taken for granted,” Gillard drawls down the phone in that unmistakable Aussie accent that she once apologised for.

But why should they care when they’re out of the country, with no plans to return for a few years? “One day they may come back home, they’ll have an interest in what kind of country they want to come back home to, and this election will be about this future nation.”

Monday marks the 943rd day Gillard has spent in power after her Labor party won a second term against the Liberal/ National Coalition led by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott – but only after she formed a minority government with the support of three independents and one Green MP in 2010.

Since then, it’s been a bumpy ride for Australia’s first woman PM. Gillard has seen her poll rating hit near record lows after announcing the unpopular carbon tax – which hits the biggest polluting businesses and came into force this year. And, in 2011, a poll revealed only 27 per cent of Australians would vote for her – the worst for any major federal political party in almost four years.

However, last week a study showed Gillard’s personal rating as prime minister had shot up to 45 per cent, compared to Abbott’s 33 per cent.

So what does she count as her biggest achievements so far that have changed public opinion? At number one is managing the economy: “We are unlike the rest of the world and can offer people jobs and opportunities even at a time when America, Europe and the UK are struggling to get their economies to growth.”

Despite being controversial, also on her list of triumphs are carbon pricing and rolling out the national broadband network (NBN). She also includes improvements in education; reforming health and age care; and meeting environmental challenges – focusing on protecting Australia’s oceans.

“We’ve got a lot of governing to do,” she says. “It’s an election year, but for me, it’s another year as prime minister, making changes that make a difference to people today as well as build up to the future.”


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Exclusive Interview: TNT talks to Australian PM Julia Gillard on her biggest year yet and what's next
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