THERESE Rein has not ruled out her husband, former prime minister Kevin Rudd, returning to the Labor leadership under circumstances where it might contribute to the ''national good''.
In her first public comments hinting at which way the couple might be leaning, Ms Rein says political leadership is about ''public service'' and ''not about yourself''.
While she has no personal hankering for her husband to return to the top job, and was in no way seeking it, she left open the prospect of it being a possibility. However, she stressed Mr Rudd had said he would not challenge again, indicating he would have to be invited.
''Is it [supporting him in that role again] something I would do? I don't know. But if I ever agreed to do that, it would be on the proviso that it was completely about the country, the national good, Australia's place in the world and the people who have, over many years now, told me, 'Look, we're vulnerable on this or we're hurting on that, and things need to be better.' ''
Ms Rein, speaking to The Saturday Age in Brisbane this week, says what drives her husband is compassion and that she refused to read the derogatory labels pinned on him by some of his former ministerial colleagues during his challenge for the leadership in February.
Ministers led by Treasurer Wayne Swan accused Mr Rudd of autocratic and chaotic decision-making, while one Labor backbencher, Steve Gibbons, called him a ''psychopath with a giant ego''.
''That's actually not about Kevin,'' Ms Rein says. ''It's about the people who are calling him names. That's not Kevin's issue.
''I have seen massive acts of compassion from him, historically towards some of these people when they were in need.''
She had not discussed big policy issues with her husband around the kitchen table the way former Liberal prime minister John Howard had done with his wife, Janette.
But she refuted the charge he had been a one-man band as prime minister. ''My experience of Kevin's decision-making was that he worked very, very closely with his cabinet colleagues. I saw that happening all the time, they would come to The Lodge, or come to Kirribilli or whatever. I don't think it's possible to run a government as a one-man band and I saw him constantly with his colleagues.''
Labor has continued to languish in the polls under Prime Minister Julia Gillard and there is continuing speculation in political circles that she may be replaced before the next election if the government's numbers don't improve.
Last month's Age/Nielsen survey of 1400 Australians showed 62 per cent preferred Mr Rudd as Labor leader, as against 32 per cent for Ms Gillard.