Coalition Out for the Count?
Image Credit: Claudio Gennari

Coalition Out for the Count?


The Labor Party enters the final week of Australia’s federal election campaign buoyed by opinion polls showing a rebound in support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her government. With Labor’s official campaign launch set for Monday and all political advertising to cease from midnight on Wednesday, has the party timed its late run to perfection?

The verdict from the analysts is mixed, but the consensus appears to be that Labor’s status as the incumbent and Australia’s political history of rarely throwing out governments after only one term likely will return Gillard to power.

On Saturday, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott again declared himself the ‘underdog’ (generally seen as an asset in Australian politics, as few politicians like being considered the favourite) after the latest Newspoll survey gave Labor an election-winning lead in key seats.

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The poll of 17 marginal seats in eastern Australia found that Labor would win enough seats from the Coalition in Gillard’s home state of Victoria to offset losses in New South Wales and Queensland, where the Labor ‘brand’ has been tainted by unpopular state governments.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s home state of Queensland has been viewed since the campaign started as Labor’s sore spot, and the reported swing against the government was biggest in the northern-most eastern state at 3.4 percent – enough to see five seats switch to the Coalition.

In New South Wales, the country’s most populous state and home to a deeply unpopular but more longstanding Labor government, Newspoll found a swing of 1.3 percent to the Coalition, with four seats set to fall. But the situation was more promising for Labor in Victoria, where the poll showed a swing of 6.2 percent to Gillard’s party and a three seat gain for the government.

Supporting the more promising trend for Labor was the latest Herald/Nielsen poll, which reportedly has called the result correctly in the last four federal elections. The poll showed Labor leading the Coalition on a two-party preferred basis by 53 percent to 47 percent – enough to deliver the government an extra two seats and increase its margin in the lower house. The poll also found Labor’s primary vote was up to 40 percent – one percentage point behind the Coalition’s – while the Greens slipped one point to 12 percent.

Gillard also increased her lead as preferred prime minister over Abbott to 52 percent versus 38 percent, in a poll that restored Labor and its leader to their pre-campaign position. Abbott, meanwhile, saw his approval rating slump to become a ‘net negative’ for the first time in a month.

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