Kevin Rudd.
Kevin Rudd. Blainey Woodham

Rudd's return to power would see Labor MPs 'retaliate'

POLLING indicating a reversal in the government's fortunes if Kevin Rudd was leader ignore the reality of how much friction his return would cause within the Labor caucus, a University of Melbourne academic warns.

A Nielsen poll published by Fairfax on Monday showed primary support for Labor had slipped three points in the past month to 29%, with the Coalition up by the same margin to 47%.

That was enough to give the Coalition a 57-43% two-party-preferred lead.

The poll also showed that with Mr Rudd at the helm Labor's primary vote would rise to 40%, the Coalition's would drop to 42% and the 2PP vote be locked at 50-50, which would deliver another hung parliament.

But Dr Aaron Martin from the University of Melbourne's School of Social and Political Sciences said the numbers were "not terribly meaningful".

"I find that analysis of that somewhat problematic ... because it sort of assumes that we'll have this bloodless coup and then Rudd will come in ... and the party will rally behind him and it will all be very neat," Dr Martin said.

"I think if circumstances arise in which he does become the prime minister again, that is not going to be a bloodless coup. The party is quite dysfunctional (and) there's a lot of people who don't like Rudd."

Dr Martin said if there was a change to Mr Rudd it was highly likely there would be people within the party who would "retaliate" and "undermine" his leadership, although it was difficult to predict what form that destabilisation would take.

Meanwhile, Mr Rudd faced a media scrum as he arrived at Canberra Airport on Monday.

The Queensland MP said he had "nothing further to add" to previous declarations he would not challenge for the leadership.

"My purpose in being here this week and travelling around the country in support of Labor members and candidates is very basic it is to do everything I physically can to stop Mr Abbott from becoming the next prime minister of Australia," Mr Rudd said.

"He is the single most extreme right-wing political leader that the Liberal party have ever thrown up."

It came as News Limited reported Mr Rudd would only accept the leadership if a number of senior ministers, including Bill Shorten, publicly declared their support for a change.

Mr Shorten was seen as one of the key figures in ending Mr Rudd's prime ministership in 2010.