Glamorous magazine spreads aside, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s political lustre has faded significantly in the second week of election campaigning. With Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s Coalition hitting the lead for the first time on a two-party preferred basis, according to a new poll, can Gillard recover her gloss now that her political honeymoon is over?
Dogged by embarrassing leaks over her performance as deputy prime minister and relationship with the man she overthrew, Gillard’s brightest appearance in the second week of the campaign has been on the front cover of top-selling women’s magazine, Australian Women’s Weekly.
The magazine has offered Gillard some priceless publicity, along with being one of the few current mainstream publications where former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Abbott are not likely to rate much mention.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
In a six-page interview and photo spread, Gillard tells the magazine’s readers that she has no regrets over her choices, could still end up marrying her live-in boyfriend and also smoked marijuana while at university. The Labor leader might have felt inclined to smoke something again after news broke Saturday that the Coalition was now ahead in the polls.
According to the latest Herald/Nielsen poll reported by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, the Coalition now leads Labor by 52 to 48 percent on a two-party preferred basis, a six percentage point swing against the government since the previous such poll a week earlier.
Should the poll results be replicated on August 21, the Coalition would sweep to victory with a gain of 28 seats, 11 more than it requires to rule in its own right.
Labor’s primary vote was down six points to just 36 percent, with the Coalition’s up four points to 45 percent and the Greens steady on 12 percent. Gillard’s personal approval rating was also down, with her lead over Abbott cut to 49 percent to 41 percent as women voters started defecting.
Labor may have been comforted by the poll’s result that showed 69 percent thought it would be returned to office. It’s a feat which still seems more likely given that the last Australian government that failed to win re-election after one term was the Scullin government in 1931.
The bookmakers are still calling the election for Labor, with Centrebet offering $1.54 for a Labor win to $2.40 for the Coalition for every dollar outlayed; rival Betfair has Labor at $1.52 to $2.72. However, the general wisdom is that the ‘smart money’ doesn’t arrive until closer to polling day, and much of the recent betting has been on Abbott’s team.
Given the importance of maintaining the ‘underdog’ tag in Australia, Abbott was quick to tamp down speculation over the latest poll in a media conference held Saturday in Darwin, his first visit to the Northern Territory during the campaign.
‘Polls can go up and down…I’m looking at the field evidence and the field evidence is that this has been a bad government,’ he said.