SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday sought to play down heightened speculation she may be ousted by her Labor Party before national elections in September, saying she was confident of remaining in charge.
Gillard faces a crushing defeat in the September 14 vote and is reportedly under pressure to stand down in favour of former leader Kevin Rudd, seen as the best hope of salvaging the party's fortunes.
"I am the best person to lead the Labor Party," she told reporters, adding there were no circumstances under which she would not lead Labor to the polls. "Yes there's rumour-mongering and speculation – it's wasted breath."
Trade Minister Craig Emerson, a close Gillard ally, admitted there was renewed chatter about the Labor leadership but said "that doesn't translate into anything."
"We should not be going through revolving doors, going forward and back and forward and back," he told ABC radio in reference to the sudden change of leadership from Rudd to Gillard in a party room coup back in 2010.
The move shocked the Australian public who had voted Rudd to power in a landslide and Labor's fortunes have never fully recovered.
The renewed leadership speculation has been prompted by dire polling which suggests Labor is facing a wipe-out in the election.
Gillard has endured near-constant speculation about her leadership since taking power and she won only the narrowest of victories in the last election in 2010 which resulted in a hung parliament, forcing her to cobble together a minority government with independents.
In March, Labor elder statesman Simon Crean attempted to reinstall Rudd as leader but failed when he refused to put his hand up.
In the aftermath, several ministers who supported Rudd resigned from their positions while Crean was sacked.
Rudd himself launched an unsuccessful challenge to Gillard in early 2012 but has since insisted the prime minister has his support.
After declaring last week there was a "culture of defeatism" in Labor, Rudd has taken to election campaigning with gusto and has been warmly welcomed by voters. AFP