Rudd leaves crack open on leadership

Former leader Kevin Rudd maintains that he accepts the verdict of the last leadership ballot. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Kevin Rudd has given heart to his loyalists by failing to repeat his categoric March declaration that he will never lead Labor again, while reiterating that he would not challenge Julia Gillard.

After Labor’s week from hell, Rudd told the ABC’s 7.30 that Labor people should not be “about constructing alibis for defeat”.

Their responsibility was not just to “devise a strategy for victory” but to implement it, he said.

The Rudd and Gillard camps are both already engaging in preparing to sheet home blame to each other after the election loss.

While most caucus members rule out the leadership being revisited when parliament meets for its final two weeks later this month, a few hard core Rudd supporters, including former chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon, are still trying to promote change.

The only way that could happen would be if Gillard stood down, but she has been adamant that she would not contemplate that.

Pressed on whether there were any circumstances in which he would take the leadership Rudd said: “My position hasn’t changed since February of last year. You know what I said then. I’m not going to enter word games with you.

"The caucus voted. I accepted their response.

"I said in February of 2012 that I would not be challenging the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister won that caucus ballot two to one. It was a convincing and strong win. I accepted the result”.

After the March leadership fiasco, when Rudd did not stand because he did not have the numbers, he ruled out once and for all ever seeking to be leader. A statement from his office said: “Mr Rudd wishes to make 100 per cent clear to all members of the parliamentary Labor Party, including his own supporters, that there are no circumstances under which he will return to the Labor Party leadership in the future.”

Rudd, who will campaign in Geelong tomorrow, tonight delivered a spirited defence of Labor and strongly attacked opposition leader Tony Abbott.

“We have a phenomenally strong record on the economy”, he said, and on the basis of that Labor deserved re-election.

Abbott’s claim that Australia had a debt and deficit crisis was a lie. It didn’t stack up with the triple A credit rating Australia had from rating agencies, Rudd said. The opposition leader’s claim that he would stop the boats and send them back to Indonesia was also a lie.

The former PM said that Abbott, after being for most of his years in Parliament one of the most extreme right-wing conservative politicians that the Liberal party had thrown up, was now saying that he had suddenly become a policy moderate.

“He can wear pale blue ties to assuage people up to some point, but a leopard never changes its spots”.

Denying that he or his supporters had undermined the PM, Rudd said: “My job, like every other member of parliament, is to get out there and argue the government’s case for re-election, to undermine Mr Abbott’s untruthful case for election … to get out there and campaign our hearts out around the country”.

If a week was a long time politics, “100 days is an eternity”.

Rudd committed to serving a full parliamentary term.