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Spooked Labor MPs look to Rudd
Back in favour: Ousted PM Kevin Rudd. Picture: AP

Kevin Rudd's support among Federal Labor MPs is building amid calls from two Cabinet ministers for the former prime minister to be better used to fight Tony Abbott.

With MPs in Canberra yesterday before today's return to Parliament, Rudd backers claimed they had 45 votes in the 102-strong partyroom, up from 31 at last year's leadership ballot won by Julia Gillard.

The Prime Minister's supporters concede the "untidiness" of the past fortnight had likely contributed to a drift to Mr Rudd but neither side expects another challenge.

Instead, the Rudd camp hopes a return to the former PM might be possible this year if the rest of caucus "comes to its senses" and Ms Gillard falls on her sword.

The latest polls show Labor is headed for an electoral bloodbath and that Ms Gillard's once commanding lead over the Opposition Leader as preferred PM has gone.

Criticised by colleagues for her "captain's pick" selection of Nova Peris as Senate candidate and for setting September 14 as the election date, Ms Gillard revealed her frustration yesterday by demanding Labor MPs stop leaking to journalists.

She told them some had made "negative assessments" damaging to the Government.

Labor MPs told _The West Australian _there was significant disquiet about Ms Gillard's start to the year.

One said surrendering the election date elevated Mr Abbott to alternative PM status and that delaying the resignations of senior ministers Chris Evans and Nicola Roxon until the weekend confirmed Ms Gillard's sense of insecurity.

Former Labor leader Simon Crean and Leader of the House Anthony Albanese said more would be needed from Mr Rudd if Labor was to win the next election.

"He is an asset and we should use him, but it has to be a disciplined asset," Mr Crean said. "That's a judgment not just for us to make, it's also for Kevin to make."

Mr Albanese, who unlike Mr Crean backed Mr Rudd in the leadership ballot, said: "We need to engage Kevin Rudd and use him wherever possible. He's very popular."

A spokesman for Mr Rudd said he had accepted a dozen invitations for campaign events and would respond to further requests.

Mr Abbott told his shadow Cabinet the Opposition should use the election year to act more as an "alternative government".

"I am confident that we can give the Australian people what they so very much want and need," he said.

New Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Defence Materiel Minister Mike Kelly were sworn in yesterday, as was Fremantle MP Melissa Parke, who became a parliamentary secretary.