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Rudd's rescue

Kevin Rudd's return to prominence - campaigning in Geelong - has sparked new speculation on whether Labor could engineer another leadership change.

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Kevin Rudd has dramatically re-entered the public fray, participating in a nationally televised interview in which he denied destabilising Julia Gillard but refused to rule out a return to the leadership.

Instead, he revived his February 2012 formula of accepting the caucus decision in the leadership ballot, rather than his March 2013 pledge to never again accept the leadership.

''My position hasn't changed since February of last year,'' he said in an interview with the ABC's Leigh Sales.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd visits a community centre in Geelong on Friday.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd visits a community centre in Geelong on Friday. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

In March this year he had said there were ''no circumstances'' in which he would be leader again.

In a damning critique of the opposition, likely to be seen as an example to desperate Labor MPs of how to take the fight up to a rampaging Tony Abbott, Mr Rudd branded the Opposition Leader a liar for pushing simplistic slogans he knows he cannot deliver on.

But he also used the interview to justify his own public campaigning, calling on Labor MPs not to ''haul up the white flag'' and not to blame him for their dire political situation.

Kevin Rudd visits Christian College in Geelong on Friday.

Kevin Rudd visits Christian College in Geelong on Friday. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

''It is completely wrong for people in our national political life, to be on about constructing alibis for defeat when our responsibility on behalf of the people we represent in the Parliament of Australia is to not just devise a strategy for victory but to implement that strategy as well,'' he said.

Announcing he would visit Geelong on Friday to campaign with marginal seat MPs, he vowed to ''take the argument up to the Australian people wherever I can''.

''On the asylum seekers question, let's just put his proposal into a nutshell, he [Mr Abbott] says he will stop the boats, and he will send them back to Indonesia, that is an absolute lie, he knows that, everyone who knows this area of policy well knows that, it's more of a slogan than a substantive policy position and the Indonesian government made that clear through their ambassador, in the course of the last week or so,'' he said.

Labor MP Kevin Rudd during Question Time, at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 6 June 2013.

Kevin Rudd during Question Time on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

He said after 19 years of Mr Abbott being an ''extreme right-wing conservative'' leader, he had suddenly wanted to present himself as a policy moderate.

''Well, you can wear pale blue ties to assuage people up to some point, but a leopard never changes its spots,'' he said.

Culture of defeatism

Mr Rudd followed up his appearance on the 7:30 program with his regular Friday morning appearance on breakfast television with shadow treasurer Joe Hockey.

''There's too much of a culture of defeatism on the part of various folks on our side,'' he told Channel 7’s Sunrise.

Mr Rudd praised the Prime Minister for her ''very strong leadership under difficult circumstances'' but only after challenged by Mr Hockey, to say she was doing a fantastic job.

Again challenged by Mr Hockey, the former prime minister also said he had not abandoned his March pledge to never seek the Labor leadership: ''My position on that remains unchanged,'' he said.

On Friday morning, Mr Rudd visited Richard Marles' seat of Corio and Darren Cheeseman's seat of Corangamite, the country's most marginal seat.

Mr Marles, who backed Mr Rudd's most recent aborted leadership bid, said Mr Rudd's appearance in his electorate was about boosting Labor's chances following disastrous job cuts with the planned closure of a Ford plant in the region.

''We can win the election in September,'' he told ABC radio.

Mr Cheeseman told Fairfax Media's Breaking Politics program that he had invited Mr Rudd to come down to Geelong.

''There's absolutely no doubt about it, Kevin Rudd is an electoral asset, particularly for those in marginal seats like me.''

Mr Cheeseman said that people would ''read all sorts of different things'' into Mr Rudd's campaigning in marginal seats, but said the former prime minister had made it ''absolutely clear'' that Ms Gillard would lead Labor to the September election.

While in Geelong, Mr Rudd gave a rousing speech in which he told locals to overcome the news last month that Ford was closing its Geelong and nearby Broadmeadows plants in 2016

''Let's make it into an opportunity for Geelong's future,'' he said. ''Don't let Ford destroy the morale of this local community. You are better than that, you are stronger than that.''

Mr Rudd also took the opportunity to have another go at Mr Abbott.

''There is another bloke who wants to be the prime minister of Australia and his name is Tony Abbott. And Tony Abbott says that on the future of the car industry, his view is manufacturing in Geelong is dead.''

Leadership speculation

Shattered Labor MPs have again begun discussing the prospect of a late change back to Mr Rudd.

The collapse in morale has seen at least two MPs clearing out their offices in the belief they are unlikely to hold their seats.

But Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare dismissed speculation of a return by Mr Rudd said the leadership issue was ''done and dusted''.

Mr Clare denied anything should be read into Mr Rudd's comments in the media and that former prime ministers were always on the television.

''The issue is done and dusted and the election is going to be between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott,'' Mr Clare told the Nine Network on Friday morning.

He admitted the party was trailing behind the Coalition, but reiterated Mr Rudd’s sentiments that the party should not give up.

''We have got to band together and fight hard in this election. We're behind, there's no doubt about that, but there's a long way to go,'' he said.

Finance Minister Penny Wong says she does not think Mr Rudd's appearance was evidence he was gearing up for another leadership run.

''I take Kevin at his word,'' Senator Wong told the ABC. ''That's what we all need to do, to get out and campaign for the Labor Party.''

Senior caucus member Anthony Albanese said in Hobart on Friday morning: ''Kevin Rudd will be successful as the candidate for Griffith - that's what he's focused on.''

Workplace relations minister and key Labor numbers man Bill Shorten said on Friday that he saw no issue with Mr Rudd's interview on Thursday.

''[He] is campaigning for Labor like we all are,'' he told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday morning. ''The fact that he's campaigning for Labor is an asset for us.''

He said that while there was ''no doubt in my mind'' that if the polls were correct, Tony Abbott would win the election ''in a landslide'', he added that people would start to question what the Opposition Leader stood for.

''Politics is not decided on personality,'' Mr Shorten said. ''There are two choices in an election. I believe that this election will be decided not on personality but on the issues issues . . . Voters want a debate of ideas. Labor and perhaps even the Liberal party [have] got to move on beyond debating personality.''

with Judith Ireland, James Robertson

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