SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia's newly reinstalled Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a changed man since his first stint in the job, his deputy Anthony Albanese said, as a national poll showed the switch in leadership had revived the government's election hopes.
Rudd dramatically retook the leadership on Wednesday, three years after he was suddenly ousted by his centre-left Labor Party, members of which had accused him of non-consultative and dysfunctional government.
But with Labor flagging dismally in the polls, the party dumped Rudd's predecessor Julia Gillard in much the same way, in favour of the man who had led them out of opposition by beating then prime minister John Howard in a landslide vote in 2007.
"He has changed," Deputy Prime Minister Albanese told Sky News of Rudd.
"One of the things that occurred during the first term were there were circumstances that weren't foreseen of the global financial crisis. That meant that there were shortcuts in terms of processes. Kevin Rudd has learnt from that."
Rudd himself has admitted to not discussing some issues with colleagues during his first term as prime minister, saying he had learnt "the absolute importance" of consultation.
"We can all say it's too busy, there's a global financial crisis going on, sorry colleagues, don't have time, we've got to save the banks from falling," Rudd said on Friday.
"These all seem pretty good justifications at the time but frankly decision making is always much better when it can be done collegiately."
Albanese said the sudden removal of Rudd by Gillard back in 2010 had had consequences with Australians who had voted for him in droves.
"People know Kevin Rudd. People trust Kevin Rudd. People like Kevin Rudd," Albanese said, adding that Labor now had a chance of winning the upcoming election.
The Galaxy poll published in News Limited papers appeared to support this view, showing that Labor was back within reach of the opposition which was ahead 51 percent to 49 percent in a race between the two major parties.
The survey of 1,002 voters also revealed that 51 percent of those polled believe Rudd would make a better prime minister than opposition leader Tony Abbott (34 percent). Fifteen percent were uncommitted.
The poll follows a survey of 3,018 voters conducted by polling firm ReachTEL for the Seven television network which on Saturday put Labor at 48 percent against the opposition's 52 percent -- much closer than polls conducted when Gillard was leader.
Opposition leader Abbott said the latest polls came as no surprise.
"I always have said winning government from opposition is like climbing Mount Everest," he told reporters.
"We've always said that the polls would tighten, they would have tightened under Julia Gillard, of course they have tightened under Kevin Rudd. That's what I would expect."
Rudd, whose ascent to the top job prompted the resignations of several high-ranking ministers including former treasurer Wayne Swan and former trade minister Craig Emerson, is expected to have his new-look cabinet sworn in by Governor General Quentin Bryce on Monday.
The election date, originally scheduled for September 14, in part so as not to clash with the National Rugby League or the Australian Rules grand finals, could be brought forward, Albanese said.
But he said there was no "rush" to confirm the date.
"There might be some slight change... it won't be on grand final day," Albanese said.