SENIOR union figures are urging Gillard government MPs contemplating changing leaders to consider the political disaster that NSW Labor became.
With pressure building on Julia Gillard and even her most loyal supporters conceding the matter could come to a head sooner rather than later, the union national secretaries told the Herald that dumping another prime minister would just exacerbate Labor's plight.
Joe de Bruyn, of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, disagreed with the 2010 decision to dump Kevin Rudd and tried to stop it. Mr De Bruyn said yesterday that Labor must now ''stick with'' Ms Gillard.
''It's clear that the people of Australia are not comfortable if the party gets rid of one elected leader and replaces that person with another,'' he said. ''It's a sign of instability and that doesn't sit well with the people.''
Paul Howes, from the Australian Workers Union, supported the push to oust Mr Rudd.
He said the government was doing a good job trying to protect the interests of the manufacturing sector and should be focused on this, not itself.
Another national secretary, who did not want to be identified, said the federal caucus should heed the lesson of the procession of premiers that marked the final years of NSW Labor in power.
''Have they not learnt from NSW?'' he said.
There is a nasty split in Ms Gillard's own Left faction with powerbrokers at odds over claims the faction has deserted the Prime Minister.
Doug Cameron in NSW and Kim Carr in Victoria are the leading Left figures backing Mr Rudd, and while momentum within the faction is shifting towards the former prime minister, some hard-Left members of caucus are either sticking by Ms Gillard or undecided.
Dave Oliver, of the Left-aligned Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, said ''people should just shut the hell up and let the government get on with its job''.
One of Ms Gillard's more loyal supporters said she could sustain the pressure for no more than six months. Others argued the matter must be brought to a head sooner, even before the March 24 Queensland election, an event the Rudd camp says will see Labor wiped out in the state and spur the impetus for change federally.
''We can't govern like this,'' said one minister.
The corridor chatter detracted from another policy victory for Ms Gillard yesterday with the passage of legislation for a means test of the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.
''She's the anti-Rudd,'' said a minister. ''Good on policy, not good on politics.''
While Gillard supporters blame Mr Rudd for destabilising the government, Rudd supporters cite a series of ''own goals'' by the Prime Minister and her office.
These include her inflammatory speech to the ALP national conference in December in which she pointedly did not mention Mr Rudd, the cabinet reshuffle, the Australia Day fracas and the decision to agree to an interview with Four Corners.
On the program, Ms Gillard said she had no specific recall of internal polling that was used to help convince wavering MPs that Mr Rudd should go. The Herald reported Labor MPs saying Ms Gillard spruiked the polling herself. Her spokesman said this was false.