Ally: Gillard safe as leader

A key ally of Julia Gillard has dismissed the chances of a leadership change, saying there's plenty of talk among Labor MPs but no action.

The prime minister and her government are under renewed pressure as parliament returns for its final fortnight of sittings before the September election.

Labor has slipped in the latest Nielsen poll to trail the coalition by 14 percentage points, three months out from election day.

Support for Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister is at its lowest level in a year.

Cabinet minister Craig Emerson has acknowledged there is internal chatter about the Labor leadership.

"I'm hearing talk and no action, and that's as it should be," he told ABC radio on Monday.

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury, who holds the marginal western Sydney seat of Lindsay, says there is no point sugar-coating the challenge facing Labor.

But he dismissed polls showing Labor had a 50-50 chance of winning the election if Ms Gillard was replaced by Kevin Rudd.

"To some extent there's a bit of grass is greener on the other side effect," he told ABC radio.

Mr Bradbury said there had been an effort to diminish the "great achievements" of the Gillard government.

"People seem so intent to focus and to obsess on and crucify her and us for every mistake."

Retiring Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons says he will never support Mr Rudd's return.

"He knows that, I've said that to his face," he told ABC radio.

The MP doubted claims by Rudd supporters that there was a growing mood for a leadership change.

"They've being saying that for 12 months and it hasn't happened and I don't think it will happen this time."

Labor backbencher Andrew Leigh says Ms Gillard will still be leader at the end of this sitting fortnight.

"The party is going to go to the next election with Julia Gillard as leader," he told reporters in Canberra.

But he admits Labor will be the underdog in September: "You can see that in the polls or you can see that from looking at the arrogance Tony Abbott now has."

Fellow backbencher Deb O'Neill says she supports Ms Gillard but the Labor caucus will ultimately decide on the party leadership "if an opportunity arises".

She dismissed a story that Ms Gillard is warning supporters her education funding reforms will be doomed if Mr Rudd returns to the leadership.

"That is not a conversation that I have had with anyone."

Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne said Labor could change leaders but it would still have the same problems.

"You can put a lick of paint on a haunted house but it'll still be the rat-infested, white-anted haunted house that it was before," he said.

The Labor front bench would go from being the "c-team" to the "d-team" under Mr Rudd, Mr Pyne said.

Liberal backbencher Jamie Briggs said it wouldn't make a difference if Labor was led by Ms Gillard, Mr Rudd or Bobo the Clown: "It doesn't matter, it's the policies which are the problem."

Australian Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt called on Labor to sort out its leadership once and for all, saying people are "pretty over it".

He says the Greens will do well in September, whoever leads Labor.


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