The latest poll results are a ''wake-up call'' for Labor, says frontbencher Simon Crean, who concedes that the party cannot ''gild the lily'' about the figures.
Speaking to Fairfax Radio on Monday, the Arts Minister and former Labor leader said that while there had been a lot of volatility in the polls, the latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll, which puts Labor's primary vote at 30 per cent, was an ''important wake up call''.
''It shows what happens when you've got the internals detracting from you, plus everything that's happening in New South Wales,'' he said.
Mr Crean cautioned that while former prime minister Kevin Rudd - who leads Prime Minister Julia Gillard as preferred ALP leader, 61 per cent to 35 per cent - was an asset for Labor, and had a proud legacy, he needed to understand how ''the dissension can cause difficulties for us, not just in terms of the polls . . . it just detracts from us being able to get a consistency of message across''.
Mr Crean, who was a vocal critic of Mr Rudd this time last year, said that he had a brief talk to the Member for Griffith at a dinner for retiring Labor MP Robert McClelland last week.
''I don't think it's a question of telling him to shut up,'' he said. ''I think it's a question of ensuring that he stays on the issue, rather than just having the perception that it's a thinly disguised effort to promote him as the alternative leader.''
Referring to last week, where Mr Rudd gave several media interviews, Mr Crean said, ''with one or two exceptions, that's what he was doing''.
This comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that she just lets poll results "wash through" after the Fairfax/Nielsen result.
In the latest poll Ms Gillard has also lost her lead as preferred Prime Minister, with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott now leading 49 per cent to her 45 per cent.
''I just don't commentate on opinion polls,'' Ms Gillard told Channel Seven on Monday, adding that various polls came out at least fortnightly.
''If I spent my time worrying about and commentating on opinion polls, then I wouldn't have time to get my job done,'' she said.
''Each and every day I just let that wash through.''
In the wake of a strong result for former prime minister Kevin Rudd in the Fairfax/Nielsen poll – where he polled 61 per cent to Ms Gillard's 35 per cent as preferred ALP leader – Ms Gillard also dismissed Labor leadership speculation.
She said the party resolved that issue last February.
''None of that is what I focus on . . . you can ask these questions a million different ways and you're going to get the same answer,'' she said.
This follows Mr Rudd's comments on Sunday that leadership speculation should be put in ''cryogenic storage''.
Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson appeared more concerned about the poll when he spoke to ABC Radio on Monday morning, saying the government had lacked ''unity of purpose''.
''We need to cut out the diversions and distractions and focus on what matters to people, like jobs,'' he said when asked why his party had slumped in the polls.
South Australian Liberal MP Jamie Briggs said that people were ''over'' the Labor government. ''People are sick of the chaos, they're sick of the circus that is now the Gillard government,'' he told Fairfax Radio on Monday.
''Whether it's the mining tax stuff up, the carbon tax stuff up, the border protection stuff up or just the Kevin Rudd soap opera, people are over this divided and chaotic government.''
Dr Emerson said that the government had spent too much time ''talking about ourselves''.
''A government that doesn't show unity of purpose will fall in the polls,'' he said.
But the Trade Minister was optimistic that Labor could rebound from the result, pointing to closer poll results recorded earlier in 2013.
''We can rebound from this, but we need to be talking about and working on the issues that are relevant to and of concern to the Australian people,'' he said.
AWU boss Paul Howes similarly said his union was focused on jobs and industry not the Labor leadership.
''Nothing's inevitable,'' he told Sky News. ''Let's talk about the issues that matter and let's talk about the policies that matter.''
''I am not worried about constant polls that change from week to week,'' he told ABC television on Monday.
He was reminded he didn't appear so sanguine about such samples of public opinion when he was one of the so-called ''faceless'' men who dumped Kevin Rudd as leader in 2010 after a series of bad polls.
''Absolutely. You just heard me eat humble pie,'' Mr Howes said.
''I regret that I was one of the people that used to engage in this constant useless chatter on various opinion and chat shows around the country.
''I am sick of it, I am not doing it any more.''
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver played down the poll result on Monday morning.
''This is a matter for the Labor party, the ACTU doesn't get a vote in these matters,'' he told ABC Radio.
He said the workers he came into contact with were not talking about leadership speculation.
''What we look at is the good job that the Gillard government has been doing,'' he said.