By a staff reporter, with AAP
Tensions within the Labor Party are reaching a peak as MPs expect any attempt at changing the party's leadership will occur in the coming week, which closing out the final parliamentary session before September's federal election.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard's supporters became more vocal Friday, openly challenging Kevin Rudd to mount a bid to unseat Ms Gillard, while Mr Rudd faced heat for his word choice in responding to a radio interview question about his leadership ambitions.
In an interview with the Seven Network, Mr Rudd was asked if he stood by his March declaration that there were “no circumstances” in which he would return as Labor leader.
“As I said then and I've said ever since, I don't believe there are any circumstances under which that would happen,” Mr Rudd responded.
His use of the word “believe” prompted supporters of Ms Gillard, as well as members of the Coalition, to accuse Mr Rudd of being unclear about his ambitions.
“I genuinely think that if Kevin Rudd wishes to challenge, he should do so. He should stop this confusion and the mumbling and the mumbo jumbo,” Resources Minister and Gillard supporter Gary Gray told ABC Radio.
“He should test his level of support or he should get on with the campaign to ensure Labor's vote is as strong as it could be and to ensure that Labor wins the election.”
A Mr Rudd spokesman responded by criticising Mr Gray.
“As one of the co-authors of the 2010 leadership coup [against Mr Rudd] it is hardly surprising that Mr Gray has chosen to continue his public attacks on Mr Rudd's character,” the spokesman said, according to The Australian Financial Review.
A senior member of the Labor cabinet reportedly told the AFR Ms Gillard “ain't going nowhere”, adding that the caucus is not moving to oust Ms Gillard, meaning Mr Rudd “has got to do something if he wants it”.
Newspaper calls on Gillard to resign
The Age newspaper in Melbourne has called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to resign before the September 14 election and accept she has failed as leader.
The editorial said she must step down now in the interests of her party, the nation and for democracy.
"The Age's overriding concern is that under Ms Gillard's leadership, the Labor Party's message about its future policies and vision for Australia is not getting through to the electorate," the newspaper says in its Saturday editorial.
"Our fear is that if there is no change in Labor leadership before the September 14 election, voters will be denied a proper contest of ideas and policies - and that would be a travesty for the democratic process."
The newspaper argues that the coalition has been allowed to run unchallenged on its platforms for too long and Ms Gillard has not been able to sell Labor's narrative of landmark reforms to voters, who have stopped listening to her.
"The government under Ms Gillard has lost its way," it said.
"The onus falls on Ms Gillard to break the impasse."
The paper said it is not entirely convinced that Kevin Rudd has changed since he was a "flawed leader," but he should still be given a chance to be prime minister once again.
"We cannot ignore the clear and consistent evidence of the opinion polls that his return to the leadership would lift Labor's stocks and enhance its prospects of making the election a genuine contest."