Rudd told to 'put up or shut up'
Sydney - Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted on Monday she has strong support from her Labour colleagues as party critics told Kevin Rudd to "put up or shut up" with leadership tensions reaching fever pitch.
Amid speculation that a leadership ballot could come as early as next week, Gillard said she was focusing on the government's reform agenda.
"I'm getting on with the job with the strong support of my caucus colleagues," she told reporters.
"I'm getting on with my job. Kevin Rudd's getting on with his."
Rudd, now foreign minister, was ousted in a shock party coup in June 2010 by his deputy, Gillard. But she is now badly lagging in the polls and talk has intensified that he is preparing to challenge for the top job.
Party insiders were cited by the media as saying a leadership ballot could come as early as next Monday, when parliament sits again.
Rudd is currently in Mexico for the G20 meeting.
Former Labour leader Simon Crean launched a scathing attack on the foreign minister on Monday, saying he had been "internally disloyal".
He said Rudd needed to be a "team player" and that he should "put up or shut up" to resolve the long-running speculation.
"If Kevin Rudd can't be part of the team, let him exit the team," he told ABC radio. "If he thinks he's got the numbers, let him challenge.
"Kevin hasn't got the numbers to challenge. He's well short of anywhere near a majority. He can't win."
The Australian newspaper reported that in the 103-member Labour caucus, Gillard currently had the support of 51 MPs while 31 were behind Rudd with 21 undecided.
In a separate interview with Sky News, Crean said the dispute was "starving Labour of oxygen".
"This has got to end," he said.
Gillard was asked repeatedly during a press conference whether she would discipline or sack Rudd for disloyalty, but refused to give a direct answer.
She also dodged questions on whether she would call a leadership ballot.
"My focus is on doing what I need to do today as prime minister, to set us up to be the nation we want to be in the future," she said.
"As prime minister, I'll continue to show my characteristic determination to get the job done."
Rudd on Sunday denied he was preparing a challenge but also insisted he was a changed man and had learned to be less controlling and to consult more broadly - two key criticisms that saw him lose office.
His comments followed the publication of a video on the internet showing him in an expletive-ridden rant about a Chinese interpreter.
The two-minute video, uploaded onto YouTube by a user calling themselves "HappyVegemiteKR", shows an irate Rudd trying to record a message in Mandarin and railing against the interpreter who wrote the text.
Gillard's office denied leaking the expletive-ridden footage.
Several of Gillard's ministerial colleagues, meanwhile, threw their support behind her on Monday, including Education Minister Peter Garrett, Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.
"There is a campaign on here and it's a campaign that is anti-Labour. It's against the interests of the government of Australia and it's against the national interest and it should stop," said Emerson.