CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard insists she will lead her unpopular government to victory at elections next year despite persistent media reports that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is plotting to overthrow her in an internal power struggle.
Speculation that Rudd will soon move against the woman who ousted him as prime minister in 2010 is dominating political reporting in Australia and destabilizing Gillard's government, which opinion polls suggest is headed for electoral defeat.
Gillard, Australia's first woman prime minister, told Seven Network television late Sunday: "I'm very confident in my leadership."
She said there is "no need" to call a leadership ballot of ruling Labor Party lawmakers to prove that she has more support than Rudd.
Previous Australian prime ministers have used such tactics to head off looming leadership challenges in the past. Rudd publicly maintains that he supports Gillard and is content with being foreign minister.
Rudd supporters were buoyed by a poll by market researcher Nielsen published in Fairfax Media newspapers on Monday found that 57 percent of respondents preferred Rudd as prime minister, compared to 35 percent who preferred Gillard.
The poll was based on a random Australia-wide telephone survey of 1,400 voters and has a 2.6 percentage point margin of error.
Parliament resumes for the first time this year on Tuesday. At a meeting Sunday, Gillard warned government colleagues against feeding media speculation about leadership, saying that a "lack of discipline" within center-left Labor ranks would only help the conservative opposition coalition.