Bloomberg News

Australia’s Labor Party Near Record Low in Polls

April 16, 2012

Support for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor Party hovered near a record low in the latest opinion survey ahead of elections required by the end of next year.

Labor’s support rate of 29 percent trails Tony Abbott’s Liberal National coalition by 19 percentage points, unchanged from the previous survey last month, according to a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper. On a two-party preferred basis, which takes into account the country’s preferential voting system, backing for Labor increased by two percentage points to 44 percent compared with the opposition’s 56 percent.

After fending off a leadership challenge by predecessor Kevin Rudd in February, Australia’s first female prime minister is focusing on delivering on her pledge to end four years of deficits in the fiscal year that begins July 1. A landslide loss for Labor in last month’s Queensland state election left Gillard with allies governing two of the nation’s six states.

“No matter what the government does or says, voters just don’t seem to be listening,” said Zareh Ghazarian, a political analyst at Melbourne’s Monash University. “The worrying thing for Labor is there doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon to change their minds.”

The Newspoll survey of 1,205 people, conducted April 13-15, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Gillard trails Abbott as preferred prime minister by two percentage points, according to the survey.

Support for Labor hit a record low of 26 percent in a Newspoll taken on Sept. 16-18 last year.

Surplus Bid

The Australian government’s bid to deliver the nation’s first budget surplus since the global financial crisis is being undermined by lower-than-expected tax revenue, Treasurer Wayne Swan said April 15. The strategy has been threatened by global pressures including China’s economic growth slowdown, Europe’s debt crisis and elevated unemployment in the U.S.

Australia’s underlying cash balance for the year to Feb. 29 was a deficit of A$29.4 billion ($30.4 billion), compared with a forecast made in November of a A$27.5 billion gap, according to Treasury figures. The government’s taxes on carbon, as well as on iron ore and coal profits, are set to take effect on July 1.

Australia unexpectedly posted back-to-back trade deficits in February as coal and metal exports slumped. The government is relying on A$456 billion of resource projects to meet Chinese and Indian demand to drive economic growth and support employment.

Parliament is on hiatus until May 8 when the government will announce its budget. Gillard was forced to cobble together a minority government with independents and Greens after the closest election in seven decades in August 2010.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net


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