Outgoing frontbencher Brendan O'Connor has ensured that the flames of acrimony continue to burn in the Labor camp, as he called on Kevin Rudd to leave federal parliament.
His comments come as it is understood that Caucus would meet on Friday at noon where the leadership would be debated, but not necessarily settled.
Former skills minister Brendan O'Connor says Kevin Rudd should leave parliament. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Barely an hour after Tony Burke pleaded with his Labor colleagues to afford the former prime minister some dignity, Mr O’Connor became the first returned Labor MP to urge Mr Rudd to leave in the interests of the party.
''I think that the spectre of a former prime minister in an opposition room is such that the perception will be at the very least that there’s a concern about what will happen for the leader,'' Mr O’Connor told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
Mr O'Connor, who was a loyal Gillard backer, said Labor needed to ''draw a line in the sand''.
Former immigration minister Tony Burke says Kevin Rudd should be allowed to decide his fate in his own time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
''I think Kevin made the right decision on Saturday [to step down from the Labor leadership]. He fought hard, but we lost . . . I think he now has to contemplate the importance of him standing down from parliament,'' he said.
Mr O'Connor, who was employment and skills minister under the brief reformed Rudd prime ministership, also said Labor's election campaign was not ''great''.
''But I think [Mr Rudd] did work hard,'' he said.
Mr O'Connor's comments come after former Labor minister Craig Emerson launched a withering attack on Mr Rudd on Monday, describing him as a ''destabilising influence''.
It also follows calls from other former Labor ministers Stephen Smith and Greg Combet - who announced they would quit parliament in the wake of Mr Rudd's return in June - for Mr Rudd to leave.
Key Rudd backer Kim Carr told the ABC on Monday that Mr Rudd had no intention of leaving parliament.
On Tuesday, Mr Rudd's office said he had no comment when asked about his parliamentary future.
Last Thursday, when answering questions at the National Press Club, Mr Rudd said: ''My intention is to continue to serve my local people as their member of parliament; my intention equally is to serve them as their prime minister.''
On Tuesday morning, Mr Burke, who is staying on as the member for Watson, pleaded with his colleagues to stop bickering with one another over Labor's leadership issues.
''[My] plea to colleagues on this is please stop. Let's not have an election night where we all say we understand the message was we've got to stop the infighting. And then two days later we’re having arguments like this,'' he told Radio National.
Mr Burke said that the member for Griffith should be allowed to make his own decision about his parliamentary future.
''I think all that matters is that Kevin gets to make that decision himself with a bit of dignity, without commentary from the sidelines,'' he said.
The outgoing immigration minister also praised Mr Rudd's approach when he returned to the leadership, conceding that he had previously criticised Mr Rudd’s first attempt at the prime ministership.
''I have absolutely no complaints to make at all about the leadership style when [Mr Rudd] came back,'' he said.
Bill Shorten, 46, is firming as the likely candidate to replace Mr Rudd as the Labor leader, although Anthony Albanese, 50, is still in the frame.
Mr Burke has ruled himself out of the Labor leadership in the current contest – although he has suggested he has leadership aspirations for the future.
''I'm not ready, I know I'm not ready,'' he said. ''I'm only 43.''
And despite a social media campaign to throw her hat in the ring, outgoing health minister Tanya Plibersek appears to be resisting the pressure.
A hashtag ''Plibersek16'' has sprung up since Labor’s election loss.
Ms Plibersek, the acting foreign affairs spokeswoman, told the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night that she would not stand in a Labor ballot.
On election night, former prime minister Bob Hawke said that while Ms Plibersek was a very impressive candidate she may not be suitable as she had a three-year-old child.
This prompted others, including feminist group Destroy the Joint, to point out that Mr Shorten also has a three-year-old.
Senator Louise Pratt has roundly endorsed Ms Plibersek as a future party leader, telling Fairfax Media that has ''enormously wonderful leadership qualities''.
The Labor bloodletting comes as The Australian Financial Review reports that internal Labor polling suggests that Mr Rudd's return in June saved as many as 17 seats and lifted the vote by as many as 18 percentage points.
When asked on Sky News if he agreed with with report, Mr O'Connor said, ''no''.
''I think these things are arguable,'' he said.
With Mark Kenny