Australian prime minister Gillard leaves Apec summit as father dies

The Australian prime minister flies out of Apec talks in Russia after bereavement

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 5:14am


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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard left the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Russia early to return home after learning of her father's death.

John Gillard died yesterday in Adelaide, aged 93. Trade Minister Craig Emerson will take Gillard's place representing Australia at Apec meetings for the remainder of the weekend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement yesterday afternoon to explain Gillard's absence as the Apec leaders met as a group for the first time at the summit.

"A sad event has occurred in the family of one of our colleagues, the prime minister of Australia. Her father has passed away," Putin said as the leaders gathered around a large round table. "Therefore, I allow myself to express condolences from all of us."

In her statement, Gillard said: "My father was my inspiration. He taught me that nothing comes without hard work and demonstrated to me what hard work meant, as a shift worker with two jobs. I will miss him for the rest of my life."

At the summit Australia signed a memorandum of understanding with Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to open a refugee processing centre there.

Rising deaths among people trying to enter Australia to seek asylum spurred Gillard to reverse her previous stance by passing legislation last month to send asylum seekers arriving by boat to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing.

Apec comprises Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, Russia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands Forum.