Election date in September could be reviewed as Rudd wanted time to make changes to several key policy areas
Rudd poll bounce boosts Labor
Kevin Rudd's return to the Labor leadership has dramatically reversed a poll slide in the party's heartland seats, suggesting the severe election losses feared under Julia Gillard's leadership can be avoided.
A new poll reviving Labor hopes came as Mr Rudd stepped up his attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's "stop the boats" policy, warning it risked sparking conflict with Indonesia.
Mr Rudd also warned that a Coalition government could plunge Australia into recession if it adopted the harsh spending cuts he believes the opposition is planning.
'Just chill': Prime Minister Kevin Rudd addresses the media. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
He also signalled significant policy changes, including the possible dumping of the carbon tax in favour of a lower floating carbon price and a two-week extension of the negotiation period of the education funding package, and softened his language on a big Australia in favour of a sustainable Australia.
A Fairfax ReachTEL poll conducted on Thursday found a turnaround of about 10 per cent for Labor in four key seats – Melbourne's Maribyrnong and Chisholm and Sydney's McMahon and Blaxland – since Mr Rudd regained the top job.
The poll showed that Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten had climbed back to an 8.6per cent two-party preferred lead in his electorate of Maribyrnong in Melbourne's west. Mr Shorten controversially shifted his support from Ms Gillard to Mr Rudd at the last minute in the leadership showdown.
In Chisholm, Speaker Anna Burke was ahead 55.2 to 44.8.
The poll suggested the leadership change has impressed enough Labor heartland voters in western Sydney to save key Rudd backer and new Treasurer Chris Bowen and rising star Jason Clare, the Home Affairs Minister who holds Paul Keating's old seat of Blaxland.
The poll of the four seats contains some wider warning signals for Tony Abbott. In each case he trailed Mr Rudd on the question of who would make the better prime minister.
In an interview later with Fairfax Media, Mr Rudd outlined his thinking on the election timing, saying he wanted time to make changes to several key policy areas, including the education package previously known as Gonski, as well as possible changes to the carbon fixed price, the mining tax, and others.
The comments indicated he may be prepared to wait longer than Ms Gillard's poll date of September 14 before going to voters.
Issuing a clear signal that he has learnt from previous errors when he was criticised as a "control freak", Mr Rudd stressed that decisions would be made through an orderly and consultative process.
"I want to the see some new policy settings in a number of areas before we face the people and that it's got to be thoroughly developed, thoroughly costed so that it's real and notjust a press release," he said.
On border protection, he accused Mr Abbott of "choosing to be ignorant of the facts, choosing to be ignorant of what the intelligence services are telling us ... and instead, simply trying to slide through on the basis of slogans and fear-mongering and a headline".
But he did acknowledge that the rate of irregular maritime arrivals was straining public patience and hurting the Labor Party.
"Our challenge has been always to keep this at manageable levels," he said.
"I'm worried that there is more disquiet in the community because of this challenge. It's important, but I'll be fighting this election first and foremost on the economy, jobs, standard of living and of course national security is another priority."
In other comments, Mr Rudd:
•Said he would fight the election on the economy, and job security, and working conditions, challenging Mr Abbott to a National Press Club debate on debt and deficit in the next fortnight.
•Defended his role as "Kevin 747" during his first stint as prime minister but flagged doing less international travel in favour of "video-conferencing" in some instances.
•Softened his previous language on a goal of a "big Australia" in favour of "a sustainable Australia".
"I believe in a sustainable Australia," Mr Rudd said. "If you've got the sustainability settings right, on land use, on water useand on infrastructure provision, then of course the country can grow, so I believe in a sustainable Australia."