PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has crossed another item off his pre-election to do list after caucus endorsed internal reforms before a possible poll next month.
Mr Rudd also gave federal MPs a rousing address during which he named about eight seats he thinks the ALP could win back at the election, which might be called within a week.
However, the prime minister is keeping his election timetable options open after dealing with outstanding policy issues on the carbon tax and asylum seeker boat arrivals, and internal reform.
“These are big challenges for government, we still have other challenges to deal with,” Mr Rudd told reporters in the Sydney suburb of Balmain after the caucus meeting on Monday.
31 August has now firmed as favourite poll date, although Mr Rudd could still wait and call a vote for October.
Labor MPs, barring former prime minister Julia Gillard and some ministers who resigned after Mr Rudd was returned almost four weeks ago, gathered at the Town Hall in Balmain, which has symbolic links with the ALP.
They debated and voted in favour of changes to rules governing the election of the parliamentary leader, which would make it harder for MPs to remove a Labor prime minister – like Mr Rudd was in 2010.
The vote for leader will be split 50-50 between caucus and grassroots members, giving the 44,000 rank and file supporters a say for the first time in the party’s history.
“Each of our members gets to have a say, a real say, in the future leadership of our party,” Mr Rudd said. “Decisions can no longer simply be made by a factional few.”
In power, a ballot could only be called if the prime minister resigned or requested one, or if at least 75 per cent of caucus signed a petition stating the leader had brought the party into disrepute.
In opposition, a ballot would be held automatically after each federal election or if at least 60 per cent of caucus signed a petition.
“There was overwhelming support for the changes,” Labor MP Daryl Melham said.
Mr Rudd also addressed MPs on the election and told them they could reclaim the seats of Hasluck in Western Australia, Boothby in South Australia, Aston and Dunkley in Victoria, Denison in Tasmania, Bennelong and Macquarie in NSW and Solomon in the Northern Territory.
Mr Rudd’s return has improved Labor’s stocks among voters, and his personal ranking is well above Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s, the opinion polls show.
But the minority government needs to hold its current 71 seats and win at least another five to return to power and head off a coalition victory.
Mr Rudd also discussed decisions to move from a fixed to a floating carbon pricing regime and the treatment of asylum seekers.
While the carbon decision was broadly welcomed, some MPs were concerned about the hardline Papua New Guinea plan, which effectively denies settlement to asylum seeker boat arrivals.
Mr Rudd wants to send those people to Manus Island for processing and eventual settlement there if they are determined to be refugees. – AAP