Australia's resurgent opposition party launches election campaign by attacking gov't disunity

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's resurgent opposition party officially launched its election campaign Sunday 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 Labor Party's, with most opinion polls pointing to a change of government in the Aug. 21 general elections.

The Labor Party has faced a series of setbacks, including mining companies opposed to a proposed profits tax, 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 Labor Party coup, 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 on Sunday.

Lingering anger over Rudd's sudden ouster has overshadowed Gillard's attempt to win a second three-year term for her center-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 didn't vote for Labor.

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

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

Rudd posed with Gillard for photographs Saturday 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.

Gillard will officially launch Labor's campaign in Brisbane on Aug. 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.