Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott is the nation’s preferred leader, overtaking Prime Minister Julia Gillard after new taxes took effect 16 months before an election must be held, a poll showed.
Thirty-nine percent of voters prefer Abbott as leader, up 1 percentage point from a previous survey, according to a Newspoll published in today’s Australian newspaper. Australia’s first female prime minister slipped 3 points to 36 percent, it showed. The opposition party extended its lead over Labor by 2 points to a 12-point margin on a two-party basis, which takes into account the nation’s preferential voting system.
Gillard is running out of time to turn around her government’s performance in the polls, which has been weakened by taxes this month and lawmaker scandals that have eroded Labor’s control of parliament. Her political standing fell further two weeks ago when her bid to break a political stalemate over refugees failed after Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition rejected the laws.
“Abbott would have to have a spectacular fall to not be the next prime minister of Australia,” said John Wanna, a professor of public administration at the Canberra-based Australian National University. “Gillard’s policies just aren’t resonating with the voters.”
Abbott has been seeking to undermine her government’s one- seat majority in parliament. This month he will attend the Australian American Leadership Dialogue in Washington and New York before going to China, the Age newspaper reported today.
Labor’s primary vote rose 1 percentage point to 31 percent, while support for the opposition Liberal-National coalition increased 2 points to 48 percent, according to Newspoll. The survey of 1,141 people, conducted July 6-8, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
After the closest election in seven decades, Gillard cobbled together a minority government in September 2010 with support from independents and Greens, who pledged their votes in parliament. In return, she backtracked on a promise not to create a tax on carbon emissions, which was implemented on July 1 along with new levies on iron ore and coal mining profits.
Gillard has been betting increased benefit payments to low- and middle-income households from revenue generated by the new taxes would alleviate a voter backlash.
“The cash handouts don’t seem to have worked at this stage, and voters are yet to receive higher electricity bills due to the carbon tax, so Gillard may not get any traction from this,” Wanna said.
Lawmakers with the Greens on June 28 joined Abbott’s Liberal-National opposition in rejecting the government’s proposals to allow asylum seekers to be processed in Malaysia and Nauru.
Abbott has called for the resignation of Craig Thomson from parliament after the former Labor lawmaker, whose vote Gillard relies on to pass laws, dismissed allegations he used a union credit card to pay for prostitutes.
Tony Crook, a National party member of parliament for Western Australia who voted as an independent, in May withdrew his support for the government. Peter Slipper, the parliamentary speaker on whom Gillard had relied to solidify her control of the house, in April stepped aside to deal with fraud and sexual harassment claims that he denies.
“This is going to be a long, hard race,” Defense Minister Stephen Smith told reporters in Brisbane today. “In the end there’s only one poll that counts,” the election next year, he said.
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