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Gillard Fails to Dent Opposition’s Lead as September Vote Looms

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April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ruling Labor Party failed to win back voters this month, leaving it on course to lose an election scheduled in less than five months, an opinion poll showed.

Labor’s support remained at 45 percent on a two-party preferred basis, while Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition held at 55 percent, according to a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper today, two weeks after the previous survey. Gillard’s satisfaction level rose 2 percentage points to 30 percent.

Australia’s first female prime minister is seeking momentum for Labor after its credibility was damaged last month by the party’s third leadership battle in as many years. Gillard, whose government delivers the annual budget on May 14, is trying to focus attention on the nation’s economic strengths and pledges to boost spending on education and disability payments even as tax revenue is hurt by a stronger currency.

The budget deficit was A$23.6 billion ($24 billion) for the first eight months of the financial year, A$5.7 billion wider than earlier projected, primarily due to reduced tax revenue and higher personal benefit payments, according to government figures released on April 12.

“We have made the choice that we won’t match that underperformance in the revenue by cutting and cutting and cutting government expenditure,” Gillard said in an interview in Melbourne yesterday. “The cuts would hurt people and it would be bad for our economy to take too much out of our economy.”

The Newspoll survey of 1,129 people taken April 19-21 had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. On the primary vote, which tallies respondents’ first voting preference, Labor remained unchanged on 32 percent, against the coalition’s 46 percent, down 2 points.

On the question of who would make the better prime minister, Gillard fell 2 points to 35 percent and Abbott was unchanged on 40 percent, the poll showed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net; Victoria Batchelor at vbatchelor@bloomberg.net