A LEADERSHIP showdown between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her detractors could be put off until after Labor’s landmark schools funding legislation passes federal parliament.
MPs were on alert on Monday after another poor poll for the government fuelled rumblings caucus might be encouraged to back a change of leadership so the party can save seats as the next election.
However, the day was relatively quiet, with a few of Ms Gillard’s core supporters emerging to back her and reject the case for a move to former leader Kevin Rudd this close to the September poll.
“I’m hearing talk and no action and that’s as it should be,” cabinet minister Craig Emerson said.
The Labor caucus meets on Tuesday morning, ahead of parliament sitting at noon, and could provide another potential pressure point for a challenge.
But Labor sources said there didn’t appear to be any major momentum at present to “tap” Ms Gillard, who on Monday concentrated in parliament on highlighting her government’s schools funding reforms.
“No one knows what to do, no one’s game,” an insider said.
It’s also believed the party doesn’t want to risk the schools funding bill, which paves the way for a new funding model that offers the states and territory almost $15 billion in new funding for the nation’s private and public schools.
The bill, which is now before the Senate, could be upset if there was a change of leader who immediately called an earlier election.
Mr Rudd arrived in Canberra for the first of two final sitting weeks before the election and was repeatedly asked if he would stand for the leadership if asked by his colleagues.
“I have nothing further to add on what I’ve said before,” the former prime minister said.
Mr Rudd has previously said that under no circumstances would he return to the ALP leadership.
Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, who holds the marginal western Sydney seat of Lindsay, dismissed the polls showing Labor had a better chance under Mr Rudd.
“To some extent there’s a bit of grass is greener on the other side effect,” he said.
Retiring Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons says he will never support a Rudd return.
“He knows that. I’ve said that to his face,” he said.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the nation needed a government that united the people.
“The Australian people are sick of the circus in Canberra and what they want is strong and stable government,” he said.
Labor’s primary support has slipped to 29 per cent, against the coalition’s 47 per cent, according to the latest Nielsen poll published by Fairfax Media.
On a two party basis Labor trails by 43 per cent to 57 per cent but the poll also showed if Kevin Rudd returned to the prime ministership the split could be 50/50.
An Essential poll also released on Monday put the Labor primary vote at 35 per cent and its two party vote 46 per cent, against 54 per cent for the coalition. – AAP