The latest Newspoll shows Julia Gillard’s personal standing below that of Kevin Rudd when he was dumped by the Labor party 12 months ago, and the coalition holding an election-winning lead.
Unnamed Labor sources, quoted in The Canberra Times on Thursday, said Mr Rudd – who has kept a high profile as foreign minister and been preferred Labor leader in a number of polls taken since last year – is keen to return to the leadership.
Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra he had read the report “and there is no truth in it”.
He said he aspired to be “one day, maybe, one of Australia’s better – probably not the best – foreign minister”.
“And I’ve got a long way to go on that,” Mr Rudd said.
“I enjoy the job very much. I’m able to achieve some things in it and that’s where my heart and soul lies in terms of my own future.”
Mr Rudd said his “ambition” was to ensure Liberal leader Tony Abbott never became prime minister.
As for crunching caucus numbers, Mr Rudd said: “At the CEO Sleepout (charity event) tonight in Melbourne I’m up to $5000 in terms of dollars support – they’re the numbers I’m interested in.”
Defence Minister Stephen Smith, who was shuffled out of the foreign affairs role to become defence minister in the Gillard government, said there was “no vacancy” in the leadership.
“I haven’t seen any, I haven’t heard any (leadership talk) – we strongly support the prime minister,” Mr Smith said.
Ms Gillard was doing a “very good job” and while the government had a number of “challenges”, voters would get their chance to cast their judgment at the election in late 2013.
Mr Abbott told reporters he saw little point in Labor swapping leaders.
“We don’t need a leader swap, we need a policy swap,” he said.
“The problem is not the leader, the problem is Labor.”