Tue, May 17, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Surveys indicate Australian voters deserting Gillard


Support for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has plunged to record lows, polls showed yesterday, with the opposition saying it proved she has stopped listening to the electorate.

Two separate post-budget polls pointed to slumping support for the country’s first female leader, who has been in power for less than a year.

A Nielsen poll of 1,400 voters in Fairfax newspapers saw Gillard’s approval rating fall two points to a record low of 43 percent, while the Labor leader’s disapproval rating was up two points to 52 percent, also a record for her.

For the first time, conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott has a higher approval rating than the prime minister at 45 percent.

In a Newspoll of 1,201 people for the Australian newspaper, satisfaction with Gillard dropped to a record low of 34 percent and dissatisfaction climbed to 55 percent.

Given a choice between the two main parties, 54 percent said they would vote for Abbott’s coalition against 46 percent for Labor.

The polls followed last week’s unpopular belt-tightening federal budget in which cuts of US$23.7 billion were announced to counter natural disasters and revenue falls.

Gillard is also struggling to convince Australians to embrace her government’s plan for a carbon tax to combat climate change, while the issue of what to do with asylum seekers continues to be a headache.

She sidestepped questions yesterday about her poor polling, instead focusing on the economy.

“I’ve got one focus and my focus is on keeping the economy strong so Australians have got the benefits of jobs, and on making sure we’re doing the right things to spread opportunity,” she said.

Abbott seized on the findings, saying the electorate was getting “very, very critical” of the Gillard government.

“It’s high time that the prime minister started listening,” he told ABC Radio, adding that the budget was tough on families, but not on waste.

“That’s the problem. This is a government which never seems to learn,” he said.

Asked what the crucial factor was for Gillard’s poor poll showing, Abbott said it was a mixture of the asylum seeker issue, the budget and carbon tax.

“I think it all comes together and basically people have concluded that this is a government which is incompetent and untrustworthy,” he said. “But I think the carbon tax is very much an issue here.”

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