Tuesday, December 11, 2012

AWU 'smear' takes toll on PM

DENNIS SHANAHAN, POLITICAL EDITOR The Australian December 11, 2012 12:00AM
LABOR'S recent momentum has officially stalled. Indeed, the latest and last Newspoll survey of the year suggests it may even be going backwards.
For all the complexity and vigorous counter-attacks, it seems clear the Coalition's campaign against Labor and Julia Gillard over the AWU slush fund affair has taken a short-term toll on the Prime Minister's standing despite her attempt to dismiss it as "sleaze and smear". This was not the desired or planned outcome for Gillard and her government. Coming as Labor MPs head into the long summer break knowing there has to be an election next year, this news will carry more political weight than such a setback at any other time.
Labor's object and aspiration for 2012 was to get through a tough year, blunt the household impact of the carbon tax, destroy Tony Abbott as a viable alternative prime minister and go to the Christmas break sitting on a Newspoll primary vote of 38 per cent.
Then, with the "worst" behind them, the Labor MPs could go into the 2013 election year in a "competitive" position against the Coalition and with a leader pulling away as preferred prime minister against the damaged goods of a Liberal leader.
Gillard gave it her best shot but there was no cigar for Labor, plain-packaged or otherwise.
Labor has essentially ended the year and the parliamentary sittings where it began in terms of Newspoll. Its primary vote of 32 per cent is two points higher than the first poll of the year in late January and the same as it was in February. The Coalition's lead on a two-party-preferred basis of 54 per cent to 46 per cent was the same at the start of the year.
After rising from the dire depths of a 27 per cent primary vote in April - when former Labor MP Craig Thomson and former Speaker Peter Slipper stepped aside and ahead of the carbon tax introduction on July 1 - Labor settled into a primary vote of 36 per cent between October and last month.
There were clear improvements in Labor support among low-income earners, the young and women as billions of dollars in household compensation for the carbon tax was paid and Gillard unleashed class and gender wars.
This was enough to snuff out Kevin Rudd's ambitions for a leadership return and buoyed Labor spirits that the magic 38 per cent level was attainable.
Gillard tried to concentrate on the big positives of education reforms and a National Disability Insurance Scheme, while constantly describing Abbott as sexist, a misogynist, aggressive, reckless and dangerous.
Combined with Abbott's own relentless pressure for an early election and anti-carbon tax campaign, there was an improvement for Labor in Abbott's relative position since the beginning of the year. In the first Newspoll surveys in January and February, Abbott had his "best" for 2012 with satisfaction at 36 per cent and dissatisfaction at 52 per cent. In the last surveys of the year, Abbott's satisfaction has been at its worst, 27 per cent, and dissatisfaction at its highest of 63 per cent.
Gillard is also better placed as preferred PM over Abbott at 43 per cent to 34 per cent, compared with her 40 per cent and Abbott's 37 per cent at the start of the year, although the last survey shows Gillard's lead is slipping.
The improvement from mid-year for Labor and Gillard has stalled at the wrong time, and the talk of momentum for Labor was a move from dire straits to a precarious position after spending billions of dollars and throwing everything at the Liberal leader.
Right now, Labor is looking at a losing poll seven months out from an election campaign. It's still got time to turn the situation around but the task just got harder.

AWU 'smear' takes toll on PM | The Australian:

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