A defiant Julia Gillard insists she will not buckle in the face of incessant leadership speculation and bad polls, declaring: ''If I haven't flinched yet, why would I flinch now?''
The Prime Minister has also dismissed any prospect of being ''tapped on the shoulder'' by senior ministers, telling Fairfax Media: ''It just won't happen. (It's) much speculated upon and just won't happen.
''I'll just keep getting on with it and dealing with the issues that actually matter and all of this kind of side-commentary can do whatever it does. It's not going to deter me - or distract me.''
Ms Gillard has just emphatically ruled out any prospect of her stepping down before the election, insisting Labor made its decision on leadership when it rejected Kevin Rudd's challenge last year. ''I haven't revisited it since and I won't be revisiting it. The decision's made.''
But, in an expansive exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Ms Gillard said Mr Rudd would play a prominent role in the election campaign, saying he would be ''asked to participate in the campaign more broadly than his own electorate''.
She also indicated she would not resist a return by Mr Rudd to the front bench after the next election, saying: ''It would obviously be a matter for him that I would deal with in the circumstances of the time.''
A combative Ms Gillard also:
■ Dismissed criticism that she has eschewed the consensus model of the Hawke and Keating governments, saying: ''I don't recall Paul Keating in the 1993 campaign, in the fight of his life against the GST, looking for the consensus moment.''
■ Expressed confidence that she can win the coming election. ''The choice at the end of the day isn't what you tell the nice person from Nielsen when they ring you up. It's what you do when you mark that ballot paper when all the noise has died down and there is effectively a binary choice for who leads the nation.''
■ Defended her government's record of conflict with big business, media companies, state governments and others, saying: ''Government in my view isn't about looking at the powerful stake-holders and saying, how many can I get in my corner? Government is about serving the national interest and doing what the nation requires.''
■ Blamed sections of the media for distorting public understanding of proposed media reforms, saying: ''I never expected people in the media to applaud any reform agenda because their agenda is looking at it through their eyes and what meets their needs rather than doing what I've got to do - stand back and say what meets the national interest.''
Ms Gillard said it was the opposition, not the government, who had undermined community acceptance of migrants by fanning anxiety about boat arrivals and defended her hard line on tightening 457 visas for foreign workers.