AP News

Australian PM, at APEC, learns of father's death


VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AP) — Prime Minister Julia Gillard's father died Saturday while the Australian leader was in Vladivostok for an APEC summit.

"He has battled illness in recent years, but his death is a shock for me and my family," Gillard said in a statement.

She said her 83-year-old father, John Gillard, had died in Adelaide.

"Dad lived a long and full life," Gillard said. "He was brought up in a coal mining village and left school at 14, but transcended these humble beginnings to become a man with a love of ideas, political debate and poetry."

APEC delegates first heard of the death from Russian President Vladimir Putin who made the announcement Saturday afternoon to explain Gillard's absence as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation 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."

Gillard is returning to Australia and the country will be represented at the APEC talks by its trade minister, Craig Emerson.

Gillard arrived in the Pacific port city late Friday, but did not make a scheduled appearance Saturday morning at a meeting of business leaders taking place on the sidelines.

"My father was my inspiration," Gillard said. "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. "

"I plan to travel to Adelaide as soon as possible to grieve with my family."

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Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report


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