Abbott urges Labor to shift attention to more important matters

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has urged Labor to sort out its internal problems for the sake of those people devastated by floods and fire this summer.

Mr Abbott was responding to media reports indicating support was building within the Labor caucus for Kevin Rudd to return to the leadership.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's plea for unity during the ALP's first caucus meeting of the year on Monday had inflamed leadership tension.

Mr Rudd attempted to hose down talk of a return to the prime ministership when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday morning, urging everyone to take a "long, cold shower".

But as politicians returned to Canberra for the resumption of Parliament, Mr Abbott said Labor needed to shift its focus to more important matters.

"My plea is they should sort their problems out because these are not easy times for our country," Mr Abbott said.

"Many, many Australians have suffered this summer through flood and fire and they expect a strong and stable government and sadly, that's not the perception of things right now in Canberra.

"So I do say that the government should sort its problems out. It should stop focusing on itself. This is what the people expect. They want the government to be focused on them, rather than on its own internal shenanigans."

Mr Abbott was also asked if the opposition would adopt a more positive approach to question time in 2013.

While Mr Abbott would not be drawn on the specifics of the opposition's question time strategy, he said the Coalition would focus on "holding the government to account".

He also repeated the message he delivered to the shadow cabinet on Monday, that the Coalition needed to prove it was ready to govern.

"So where it's (the government) made promises and it hasn't delivered, where it hasn't been competent, where it hasn't been trustworthy, that's what we will be focusing on this week," he said.

"You've always got to hold the government to account but you've also got to be a credible alternative and obviously, as we get closer to polling day, there'll be more stress on being an alternative government and that's the point I was making yesterday.

"People want us to be an opposition, sure. But they want us to be a little bit more like an alternative government."