Gillard Tops Abbott as Preferred Leader as Labor Support Slips

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard overtook opposition leader Tony Abbott as the nation’s preferred leader for the first time in six months even as support for her Labor government declined, a poll showed.

Gillard’s rating as preferred prime minister rose to 40 percent from 39 percent two weeks earlier, her highest rating since July, according to a Newspoll survey of 1,143 people Nov. 18-20. Support for Abbott as preferred leader slipped 5 points to 35 percent, the lowest in nine months, according to the poll published by the Australian newspaper today.

The governing Labor Party continues to trail the Liberal-National coalition, with support falling two points from a seven-month high to 30 percent, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Support for the opposition rose to 48 percent from 44 percent, according to the poll.

Gillard’s personal standing rose amid a month of diplomatic commitments, including attending a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders and hosting talks with U.S. President Barack Obama. Her government yesterday won support from independent lawmakers for a levy on coal and iron-ore profits, ensuring the bill will gain approval in the lower house of parliament.

The government has pledged to lower the corporate tax rate by using the A$11.1 billion ($11 billion) the levy will raise over three years from companies including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group.