Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen has hosed down a former cabinet colleague's scathing critique on Kevin Rudd, calling for past leaders to be shown respect.
Nicola Roxon, health minister in Mr Rudd's first government, used a speech in Melbourne on Wednesday night to launch an attack on the former prime minister.
She described him as a "bastard" who always would be a destabilising influence.
He should leave parliament for the good of Labor, Ms Roxon said.
Mr Bowen, a key Rudd backer in the leadership contests against Julia Gillard, says it's up to Mr Rudd to decide his future.
"All former Labor leaders are deserving of respect," he told ABC radio on Thursday.
"The Australian people are over the discussion about what happened over the past six years and interested in a discussion about the future."
Asked if Ms Roxon was trashing Labor's "fine tradition" of showing respect to its former leaders, Mr Bowen said that was a matter for her.
Ms Roxon's decision to wait until after the federal election to reveal her thoughts is proof of Labor's cover-up culture, says Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer.
"They were silent on his flaws," she told Sky News.
Labor remained "hugely dysfunctional" with efforts at unification failing.
Labor backbencher Ed Husic rejected Ms Roxon's call for Mr Rudd to leave parliament, saying the former prime minister took "very seriously" his responsibility as member for the Queensland electorate of Griffith."He's been elected to the job, he should do it," he said.