Kevin Rudd says Tony Abbott, the favourite to win next year's Federal election, is "entirely beatable" because he is "the most extreme right-wing leader in his party's history".
But the former prime minister dodged questions yesterday as to whether he thought Julia Gillard could beat Mr Abbott, instead saying it was crucial Labor engaged in the political fight "effectively".
Mr Rudd was speaking in Sydney at the launch of a book on Gough Whitlam. He used the speech to highlight how the Government was continuing reforms he started in health, education, indigenous affairs and carbon. By comparison, Mr Abbott's sole strategy was a "campaign of delegitimisation of Labor", he said.
"And beneath all this, Mr Abbott would hope he would be taken on trust, notwithstanding the fact Mr Abbott is the most extreme right-wing leader in his party's history," he said.
"Notwithstanding he has neither the temperament nor the policies to occupy the highest office in this country - the office of prime minister. That is why I believe Tony Abbott is entirely beatable at the next election because increasingly the Australian people see what it may mean to take a conservative leader such as him on trust."
The coalition holds a commanding lead in the opinion polls even though Newspoll and Nielsen have found increased support for Labor.
Mr Rudd continued a Labor tactic to liken Mr Abbott to Queensland LNP Premier Campbell Newman, whose popularity is falling because of his austerity measures.
The latest Galaxy Poll found dissatisfaction with Mr Newman rose to 49 per cent, up 30 points since May and satisfaction with him fell from 64 per cent to 44 per cent.