The latest poll results are a ''wake-up call'' for Labor, says frontbencher Simon Crean, who concedes that the party cannot ''gild the lily'' about the figures.
Speaking to Fairfax Radio on Monday, the Arts Minister and former Labor leader said that while there had been a lot of volatility in the polls, the latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll, which puts Labor's primary vote at 30 per cent, was an ''important wake up call''.
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Gillard trending down: Pollster
Worrying numbers for the Gillard government in the first Fairfax/Nielsen poll of 2013. John Stirton discusses the results.
''It shows what happens when you've got the internals detracting from you, plus everything that's happening in New South Wales,'' he said.
Mr Crean cautioned that while former prime minister Kevin Rudd - who leads Prime Minister Julia Gillard as preferred ALP leader, 61 per cent to 35 per cent - was an asset for Labor, and had a proud legacy, he needed to understand how ''the dissension can cause difficulties for us, not just in terms of the polls . . . it just detracts from us being able to get a consistency of message across''.
Mr Crean, who was a vocal critic of Mr Rudd this time last year, said that he had a brief talk to the Member for Griffith at a dinner for retiring Labor MP Robert McClelland last week.
''I don't think it's a question of telling him to shut up,'' he said. ''I think it's a question of ensuring that he stays on the issue, rather than just having the perception that it's a thinly disguised effort to promote him as the alternative leader.''
Referring to last week, where Mr Rudd gave several media interviews, Mr Crean said, ''with one or two exceptions, that's what he was doing''.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet also acknowledged that the poll was bad for Labor.
''No sugarcoating it, it's a bad poll today and there's no doubt about it,'' he told ABC Radio.
Mr Combet said that when times were tough, ''you've just got to get going again'' and that he and his colleagues would be continuing to argue what they were doing to improve things in the community.
Poor poll trend continues for Labor
The latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll points towards a landslide election loss for the government. Mark Kenny in the Breaking Politics studio.
PM responds poll
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Monday morning that she just lets poll results ''wash through'' after the Fairfax/Nielsen result.
In the latest poll Ms Gillard has also lost her lead as preferred Prime Minister, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott now leading 49 per cent to her 45 per cent.
''I just don't commentate on opinion polls,'' Ms Gillard told Channel Seven, adding that various polls came out at least fortnightly.
''If I spent my time worrying about and commentating on opinion polls, then I wouldn't have time to get my job done,'' she said.
''Each and every day I just let that wash through.''
In the wake of a strong result for Mr Rudd, Ms Gillard also dismissed Labor leadership speculation.
She said the party resolved that issue last February.
''None of that is what I focus on . . . you can ask these questions a million different ways and you're going to get the same answer,'' she said.
This follows Mr Rudd's comments on Sunday that leadership speculation should be put in ''cryogenic storage''.
Mr Rudd was attending community events in Victoria on Monday. His spokesman said the former prime minister would not comment on the poll.
'Tony's a nice guy'
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said that Mr Abbott's improved personal ratings were not due to his ''nice guy approach''.
''Tony's always been a nice guy,'' he said. ''I think people have just had the wrong impression of him.''
Mr Hockey said that the Coalition was being mature and sensible in its approach to the election.
''We're certainly not getting carried away. The Labor Party's come back from these numbers before,'' he said.
Mr Hockey added that Labor itself was the problem. ''Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, tweedle-dum, tweedle-dummer. I mean, it doesn't matter. The bottom line is it's Labor and their policies.''
The shadow treasurer cautioned that Mr Rudd would just be a Band-Aid for Labor if he was restored to the leadership.
''Look, they put Kevin Rudd back, he'll last five minutes and then they'll put someone else in. It's a revolving door,'' he said.
Other Labor frontbenchers seemed more concerned about the poll with Craig Emerson telling ABC radio on Monday morning that the government had lacked ''unity of purpose''.
''We need to cut out the diversions and distractions and focus on what matters to people, like jobs,'' he said when asked why his party had slumped in the polls.
Dr Emerson said that the government had spent too much time ''talking about ourselves''.
''A government that doesn't show unity of purpose will fall in the polls,'' he said.
But the Trade Minister was optimistic that Labor could rebound from the result, pointing to closer poll results recorded earlier in 2013.
''We can rebound from this, but we need to be talking about and working on the issues that are relevant to and of concern to the Australian people,'' he said.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told reporters in Tasmania that there was ''a lot of careless chatter going on'' last week within Labor ranks.
This included ''muttering in corners'' and backgrounding journalists.
''If you're self-indulgent, the Australian people will mark you down,'' he said.
Unions dismiss poll results
AWU boss Paul Howes told ABC television on Monday that he was ''not worried about constant polls that change from week to week''.
He was reminded he didn't appear so sanguine about such samples of public opinion when he was one of the so-called ''faceless'' men who dumped Kevin Rudd as leader in 2010 after a series of bad polls.
''Absolutely. You just heard me eat humble pie,'' Mr Howes said.
''I regret that I was one of the people that used to engage in this constant useless chatter on various opinion and chat shows around the country.
''I am sick of it, I am not doing it any more.''
Speaking at the AWU's national conference later on Monday, Mr Howes insisted the union continued to back Ms Gillard "110 per cent", lauding the Prime Minister as "street tough" and "determined".
He said Ms Gillard was "prepared to stand up to the shock jocks and the billionaires and the media barons" and would "fight and scrape to do the right thing for this nation".
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver played down the poll result on Monday morning.
''This is a matter for the Labor party, the ACTU doesn't get a vote in these matters,'' he told ABC Radio.
He said the workers he came into contact with were not talking about leadership speculation.
''What we look at is the good job that the Gillard government has been doing,'' he said.