Joe Hockey
Joe Hockey

Hockey accuses Rudd of using 'weasel words' to confuse country

SHADOW Treasurer Joe Hockey has described Labor's obsession with the leadership as "pathetic" and an "insult to the country".

With politicians preparing for the final parliamentary sitting week before the election, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten was again forced to pledge his support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

A report in The Australian suggested Mr Shorten had been excluded from Ms Gillard's inner circle amid mounting speculation he had withdrawn his support for her leadership.

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne Mr Shorten was unequivocal as he proclaimed "I support our Prime Minister".

"Again, what I'm going to do in terms of the leadership debate is be consistent. And consistently, I say that I support the prime minister," Mr Shorten said on Friday after announcing the Federal Government was investing $17 million in a new independent centre dedicated to increasing workplace productivity.

"And I support our prime minister because of what she's got done in this period of minority government. I also support our prime minister because I do not want to see the Coalition elected."

Mr Shorten had earlier given a number of one-word responses during a tense exchange with Neil Mitchell on 3AW.

It came after Kevin Rudd appeared to leave himself some wiggle room when asked on Sunrise about a possible return to the leadership.

"I don't believe there are any circumstances under which that would occur," Mr Rudd said.

But Mr Hockey, who appears alongside Mr Rudd on Sunrise every Friday, accused the Member for Griffith of using "weasel words".

"Kevin said previously 'there are no circumstances', now he says 'I believe there are no circumstances'," Mr Hockey said.

"These are weasel words. At the same time, Australians are saying 'What the hell is happening to our country?',

"... the Labor Party where they are spending all their time talking about themselves, worrying about who is going to have what job, rather than worrying about the jobs of everyday Australians. It is pathetic and it is insulting for the country."

And it wasn't just Mr Hockey who noticed Mr Rudd's subtle change of language, with Resources Minister Gary Gray calling on the former prime minister to put up or shut up.

"I genuinely think that if Kevin Rudd wishes to challenge, he should do so. He should stop this confusion, and the mumbling and the mumbo jumbo," Mr Gray said on ABC radio.

In another sign of growing tension with ALP ranks, Rudd supporter and Labor backbencher Ed Husic urged Mr Gray, a member of the Cabinet, to focus his attention on fighting the Coalition.

"Instead of triggering a fight, trigger a turnaround," Mr Husic said on Sky News.

Mr Husic said he believed Labor could reverse its fortunes with Ms Gillard at the helm.

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