Kevin Rudd has been forced to publicly reiterate his support for Julia Gillard after the Prime Minister complained of a caucus whispering campaign against her.
The move came as Tony Abbott flagged a change in parliamentary tactics, saying his team would look more like an “alternative government” than an opposition this year.
Mr Rudd told journalists to “give us a break” this morning ahead of a church service to mark the start of the parliamentary year, when asked if he had the numbers to challenge Ms Gillard.
“I said 12 months ago that I supported the Prime Minister. You know, (after I) challenged the Prime Minister,” the former prime minister, now backbencher, said.
“That remains my position and everyone should take a very long cold shower.”
Mr Rudd said he was committed to ensuring Tony Abbott didn’t make it to The Lodge.
“It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be competitive,” he said.
“Our core challenge is to do whatever we can to make sure Mr Abbott doesn’t become prime minister. That’s my mission in life and that’s what I’ll be doing this year.”
A sense of crisis hangs over Labor as it starts the parliamentary year, with Ms Gillard yesterday admonishing unidentified leakers in caucus for giving “negative assessments” of her government.
Fairfax is also reporting a claim by the Rudd camp that puts his support at close to 45 of 102 caucus members. A year ago he lost a leadership ballot 31 votes to 71.
Ahead of the first question time of the year, Mr Abbott declared Labor untrustworthy and incompetent and vowed to present a positive alternative to voters.
“Obviously, as we get closer to polling day there will be more stress on being an alternative government,’ he said.
“People want us to be an opposition, sure, but they want us to be a bit more like an alternative government. Increasingly this will be the case as the election draws closer.”
Mr Abbott said Australians expected a strong and stable government. “Sadly that’s not the perception right now in Canberra,” he said.
Manager of opposition business Christopher Pyne said the AWU slush fund scandal and the Craig Thomson affair were legitimate areas for parliamentary questioning but “there’s no plan at this stage to make them the focus of the opposition’s parliamentary tactics”.
Labor MP Yvette D’Ath said renewed leadership rumblings were “just speculation”, and the caucus continued to support Ms Gillard.
“I actually sit in the caucus and I can assure you that the caucus endorsed Julia Gillard; it continues to support Julia Gillard. The leadership issue was dealt with last year,” she said.
“That matter is behind us now. All of the caucus members need to be out there working hard to ensure that the government message … the government’s policies … are being explained to the community.”
Opposition frontbencher George Brandis said Ms Gillard’s decision to name September 14 as the election date was about securing her leadership.
“I suspect it has something to do with the fact Mr Rudd and those who would like to see him back in the prime minister’s chair are a lot closer to her than is commonly appreciated,” he said.
“This was a defensive move by Julia Gillard, but time will tell.”Source: The Australian – “Give us a break: Kevin Rudd on Labor leadership questions”
- Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd back on television (craighill.net)
- Kevin Rudd hoses down challenge talk (bigpondnews.com)
- Take a cold shower: Rudd tells reporters (news.theage.com.au)
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