The former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has called for an end to the culture of personal attack in Australian politics, saying it has become so bad it is chipping away at the credibility of democracy.
In a wide-ranging interview on the ABC's Lateline program on Wednesday night, Mr Rudd, who has been busy campaigning in marginal seats, said ''there is a deep worry about the way we are going'' and ''people are hankering for a policy debate''.
He said with an election due within 12 months, ''the season has come for us to lift ourselves above the ruck''.
''What are the competing visions and what are the policies?
''[Voters] are deeply disappointed in all of us at the moment. This sort of stuff, frankly, doesn't add up to a row of beans.''
After a particularly bitter and acrimonious session of Parliament last week, which confirmed a deep personal loathing between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, Mr Rudd said ''leadership is required of all of us''.
''There's been something of a Kabuki play going on,'' he said. ''It's slowly starting to chip away the credibility of the democratic process itself.''
Mr Rudd, who still harbours an ambition to retake the Labor leadership before the next election, singled out Mr Abbott for particular criticism, saying the Opposition Leader regarded politics as ''a very, very extreme sport''.
''That is his attitude. [He] loves the smell of blood on the canvas,'' he said.
Asked whether Ms Gillard's speech last week, in which she excoriated Mr Abbott as a sexist and misogynist, was a watershed moment, Mr Rudd said legislation that prevented discrimination on the basis of gender was more important. But he said the speech resonated with many women, including his wife, Therese Rein.
He said he was not diminished by the carpet bombing of his character by his colleagues in February when he challenged Ms Gillard for the leadership.
''I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I'm contesting the next election.''
Tomorrow, Australia will learn whether it has won a seat on the United Nations Security Council, a process Mr Rudd started as prime minister. Ms Gillard said yesterday a loss would not be a reflection on Mr Rudd, saying ''this was a decision of government to enter the race''.
Mr Rudd said he would not claim credit if Australia won.