Kevin Rudd is a "bastard" who will always be a destabilising influence and should leave parliament for the good of Labor, former senior minister Nicola Roxon says.

In a scathing attack on the former prime minister, Ms Roxon said he had a vicious tongue and temper and treated brilliant people terribly.

"As long as Kevin remains in Parliament, irrespective of how he behaves, pollsters will run comparisons with him and any other leader," Ms Roxon said in delivering the John Button memorial lecture in Melbourne on Wednesday.

"For the good of the federal parliamentary Labor party ... Kevin Rudd should leave the parliament."

She acknowledged that removing Mr Rudd from the prime ministership in 2010 was "an act of political bastardry".

But she said it was only possible "because Kevin had been such a bastard himself".

She said the party erred in not explaining that at the time.

"At the time it seemed unimaginable to contemplate being so publicly rude to your own PM, with the benefit of hindsight, some of us should've spoken out - if not before, at least immediately after."

Mr Rudd was relentlessly disorganised, lacked strategy, overwhelmingly focused on the minutiae to avoid hard decisions, Ms Roxon told the annual lecture to Labor members.

She told of being called at last minute to all-day Sunday meetings at the Lodge where senior staff were required to be present but not allowed in the room.

"More than one relationship was destroyed by this relentless disorganisation," she said.

"I did ... see how terribly he treated some brilliant staff and public servants. Good people were burnt through like wildfire."

But his bad behaviour didn't end after Julia Gillard took over the top job, she said.

"Although his removal was dramatic and brutal, it was his refusal to recover with dignity, to rise above the treatment he was meted out ... and failure to claim his place as a constructive elder statesman that, in my view, showed his true nature," Ms Roxon said.

"Nothing excuses persistently destabilising and leaking against your own team during an election, or as a senior minister or as a backbencher."

Mr Rudd was not the entire focus of her speech, she told members she hoped the party would learn the lessons of the past six years, including the need to explain policy as it was developed, the importance of organisation, and the "corrosive effect" of opinion polls.

"We should never, ever as a party be ashamed of our past," she said.

"We should celebrate it, learn from it, and use it to improve our nation's future."

Ms Roxon described new leader Bill Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek as being as close to "the dream team"' as you can get.