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MPs split on Rudd's motive for interview

Date

Chris Johnson

Labor MPs are expressing two views about former prime minister Kevin Rudd's vow to lift his profile in arguing the government's case in the lead-up to the next election.

Some are saying their one-time leader is only showing that he is a team player, while others insist he remains determined to make a comeback.

On Wednesday night Mr Rudd gave his first major interview since losing a leadership challenge against the Prime Minister in February.

Speaking from China, he told the ABC's 7.30 program he wouldn't be silenced because too much was at stake for Australia and that he would do all he could to ensure opposition leader Tony Abbott did not win the election.

''I'm out there arguing the Labor case,'' Mr Rudd said. ''I'll do it anywhere and everywhere that I can.''

He insisted Mr Abbott could be beaten at the next election, and after repeated questioning conceded that the government could prevail under Ms Gillard's leadership.

The comments sparked speculation yesterday that Mr Rudd still has ambitions to get back the job Ms Gillard took from him in 2010.

''It is pretty obvious what Kevin's interview was all about,'' one Labor MP said.

''Not only does it mean that he intends to come back, it shows that he never went away.''

Another said Mr Rudd had employed a clever strategy in ensuring he gets noticed while talking up the government.

''That interview was a message to caucus,'' the MP said.

''He is letting us know he is ready to be recruited back into the leadership and he is letting Australians know he's still their champion.''

But while some Liberal MPs suggested Ms Gillard should ''sleep with one eye open'', Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he did ''not remotely'' see any leadership ambitions in Mr Rudd's interview.

And he said he did not believe the former prime minister and former foreign minister was encroaching on his territory by commenting on international relations.

''As a former prime minister he's absolutely entitled to be engaged on these great questions,'' Senator Carr said.

''All former prime ministers are entitled, indeed duty bound, to comment on public policy.''

Finance Minister Penny Wong, a Gillard supporter, said it was ''absolutely right'' for Mr Rudd to be doing everything he can to campaign for the government.

One of Mr Rudd's strongest supporters, Doug Cameron, described it as ''fantastic'' that the former prime minister was back publicly attacking the Coalition.

''I think he's one of the best politicians we have and he should be out there,'' Senator Cameron said.

''He's one of the most popular, if not the most popular, politicians in the country, so it's great that he's out there, it's great that he continues to play a team game, and it's great that he's sending a Labor message.

''We're in the fight of our lives as the Labor Party.''

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