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Monday, June 4, 2012

ALP 'absolutely' backs Julia Gillard, says Nicola Roxon

 SUPPORTERS of Kevin Rudd are warning that he is not prepared to inherit the leadership if Labor's electoral prospects at the time are hopeless.

With yesterday's Herald/Nielsen poll showing Labor's all-important primary vote at a record low of 26 per cent, the sense of frustration is growing among those who do not believe the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, can win the next election.

Ms Gillard vowed last week to lead Labor to the 2013 election and to win it. The government is banking on a reversal of fortune after July 1, when the carbon price is introduced and the campaign against the tax by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is exposed as hollow. But two senior members of the government who back Mr Rudd said the former prime minister and foreign affairs minister would not accept the job if the government was beyond salvation.

''There will come a time when he says, 'This is all too far gone','' one of the MPs said.

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The other warned: ''The longer it goes on, the more difficult it becomes to do anything that may do any good.''

Both stressed nothing was being organised in terms of the leadership, but the emerging consensus is that there will be a change by Christmas if the polls continue as they are.

Mr Rudd, who has begun to lift his public profile in recent days following a self-imposed silence after February's failed leadership challenge, has gone to China this week.

The Labor strategist Bruce Hawker, who backed Mr Rudd in the February challenge, said yesterday that the ALP was ''in more trouble than the early settlers'

"I really work very closely with Julia. She's incredibly strong, incredibly decent," she told Macquarie Radio.

"It's one of those occasions where some of the public opinion and commentary is so disconnected with the actual experience of Julia face-to-face that it's frustrating for us."

Ms Roxon said politicians dealt with opinion polls.

"They often have news that you don't like," she said.

"If we just made changes, or set up programs or announced laws only thinking about whether or not the poll would change, I think we would be rightly and roundly criticised for not looking at what was in the national interest."

Labor backbencher Nick Champion, who supported Kevin Rudd in the February leadership spill, played down speculation about Ms Gillard's future.

"We made our decision a couple of months ago," he told Sky News.

"I said my piece then and I accept caucus's judgment."

Liberal backbencher Steven Ciobo said voters were saying they had had a "gutful" of the government.

He dismissed commentary that Mr Abbott was unpopular because he was too negative, saying the job of an opposition leader was to hold the government to account.

"If that makes us look negative, well, so be it," Mr Ciobo told Sky News.

Mr Abbott's approval rating slipped five points to 39 per cent in the Nielsen poll, but he leads Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister 46-44.

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