Kevin Rudd has scoffed at reports he is within striking
distance of toppling Julia Gillard for the federal Labor
"Give us a break, give us a break," he told reporters in
Canberra on Tuesday when asked whether his backers were
counting the numbers.
Mr Rudd was responding to reports that support for the former
prime minister could be as high as 45 votes out of 102 caucus
Ms Gillard's supporters say it is lower, Fairfax Media says.
Mr Rudd insisted his position was unchanged from 12 months
ago, after he comprehensively lost a leadership ballot 31
votes to 71.
"I supported the prime minister ... that remains my
position," he said.
"Everyone should take a long, cold shower."
Ms Gillard's reduced support, confirmed to Fairfax Media by
multiple sources from both sides of the caucus, raises the
possibility of a second leadership challenge by Mr Rudd,
although his supporters say no move is imminent.
The estimate of 45 votes for Mr Rudd is regarded as "not
unrealistic" by a key Gillard backer, who put it "closer to
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Australians expected a
strong and stable government.
"Sadly that's not the perception right now in Canberra," he
"The government should sort its problems out and stop
focussing on itself."
The public wanted the government to focus on itself rather
than Labor's "internal shenanigans", Mr Abbott said.
Opposition frontbencher George Brandis said Ms Gillard was
securing her leadership by the early announcement of the
"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 told reporters.
"This was a defensive move by Julia Gillard, but time will
Labor MP Yvette D'Ath dismissed the latest leadership
rumblings as "just speculation", saying 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
"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."