KEVIN Rudd plans to take a key role in federal Labor’s re-election campaign, but not the leadership itself.
Mr Rudd made a high-profile visit to the Victorian regional centre of Geelong on Friday, as Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with unions and employers in Melbourne to discuss the future of the car industry.
The visit came after a media blitz by Mr Rudd at the end of a fortnight of parliament sittings which left Labor MPs glum about the prospects of holding government.
Having lost a leadership ballot in February 2012 and declined to contest it this year when encouraged to do so by backers, Mr Rudd told reporters in Geelong he is not a candidate for the leadership.
“And I have said equally plainly that I don’t see any circumstances under which I would return to the leadership,” Mr Rudd said.
“My job is to argue the case for Labor at a local level, up hill, down dale, every state of Australia … I will be there in order to get these guys (Labor candidates) across the line.”
In his regular Seven Network Sunrise show appearance on Friday, Mr Rudd said Labor members were suffering from a “culture of defeatism”.
“What I’m saying very loud and clear to all those folks is that this is not the time to start constructing alibis for defeat. This is a time to implement a strategy for victory,” Mr Rudd said.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten appeared to join the naysayers, telling Fairfax Radio: “There is no doubt in my mind that if the polls are correct Tony Abbott will win in a landslide.”
Mr Shorten said he was comfortable with Mr Rudd taking a prominent role and the political debate needed to move on from “who likes who” in the Labor leadership.
“You’ve got to campaign in the electronic age, people know who he is, so the fact he’s campaigning for Labor is an asset for Labor,” Mr Shorten said.
Finance Minister Penny Wong said she welcomed Mr Rudd’s comments, and dismissed suggestions the former PM was again lobbying for the leadership.
“I take Kevin at his word and I watched that interview and I thought it was great that he was out there campaigning for Labor,” Senator Wong told ABC television.
Mr Rudd said Ms Gillard was showing “very strong leadership under difficult circumstances” for the ALP and she had his support.
Coalition members are growing in confidence, with Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce telling Tamworth radio 2SM: “The reality is that the coalition are going to win the election.”
Senator Joyce is contesting the lower house seat of New England against veteran independent Tony Windsor.
Mr Rudd said the coalition was showing “arrogance”. – AAP