THE former prime minister Kevin Rudd has declared Tony Abbott to be ''entirely beatable'' as he likened the opposition's tactics to the same ''simple, naked lunge for political power'' that Malcolm Fraser's Liberals employed to bring down the Whitlam government in 1975.
Launching a new volume of Gough Whitlam's biography yesterday, Mr Rudd accused Mr Abbott of being ''the most extreme, right-wing leader in his party's history'' with neither the temperament nor the policies to be prime minister.
''Mr Abbott's entire program, in the tradition of his conservative predecessors, is simply driven by a campaign of delegitimisation of Labor,'' Mr Rudd said.
''Opposing everything, proposing nothing. And to do everything possible to secure government by whatever it takes.''
Mr Rudd, who has been relatively silent of late, set tongues wagging with his strident speech but his closest supporters said he was not undermining Julia Gillard.
''Kevin has been quiet and disciplined but that doesn't mean he has to take the vows of a Trappist monk,'' a supporter said.
Mr Rudd said Mr Abbott was ''entirely beatable at the next election because increasingly the Australian people see what it may mean to take a conservative leader such as him on trust,'' he said.
Last night, Ms Gillard also went after Mr Abbott in a speech to the Community and Public Sector Union, by likening him to the increasingly unpopular Liberal premiers who are cutting public sector jobs and services.
The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, is plunging in popularity after using the findings of an audit commission as a basis to sack 20,000 public servants.
Mr Abbott has also promised an audit commission and to slash public sector jobs.
Ms Gillard said the Liberal premiers Barry O'Farrell, Mr Newman and Victoria's Ted Baillieu all promised before their elections not to cut jobs and services.
''Then, look what they do after elections,'' she said.
Ms Gillard singled out Mr Newman's decision to scrap the breast cancer program, BreastScreen Queensland, saying it was ''a cut so brutal I honestly didn't believe it when I first read the reports''.
Mr Abbott backed Mr Newman's cost-cutting yesterday. It is understood he was briefed on the cuts Mr Newman plans to unveil in his budget next month.
''If you are going to restore Queensland's AAA credit rating, if you are going to deal with $100 billion of debt, the $10 billion of deficit that the incoming Coalition government inherited, you've got to do the tough things and the tough things are the right things,'' he said.
Mr Rudd also drew a link between Mr Abbott and Mr Newman, saying Mr Abbott's promise about not revisiting WorkChoices policies was not to be believed.
''It reminds me very much of how so many people in Queensland took Campbell Newman on trust as a conservative political leader, and not even six months later people are saying 'what the hell did we do?' because this guy has proceeded to rip the guts out of job security in Queensland,'' he said.