- Latest Newspoll shows coalition trailing Labor, 49% to 51%
- Voters concerned over policy inaction as early election looms
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government is trailing the opposition for the first time since he deposed Tony Abbott seven months ago with a federal election in Australia now as little as 13 weeks away.
Battling voter concerns that the government lacks a narrative, the latest Newspoll survey published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday shows the Liberal-National coalition falling behind the Labor Party on a two-party preferred basis, 49 percent to 51 percent.
Turnbull’s personal approval rating also slipped to a new low of 38 percent, down from a high of 60 percent last November. The poll is a blow for Turnbull, who used poor opinion polls as a reason for ousting his predecessor.
Since then Turnbull has been destabilized by policy setbacks including the shelving of tax reform, plus a string of ministerial resignations. Constant sniping over the government’s perceived lack of direction from an unforgiving Abbott also hasn’t helped matters, with Turnbull now facing the challenge of jump starting momentum for his government ahead of a possible early election.
Turnbull, 61, has vowed to hold a double-dissolution election for July 2, where both houses of parliament are up for grabs, if the Senate refuses to pass legislation aimed at curbing trade union influence.
“These are troubled times for Turnbull and he doesn’t quite look the automatic shoe-in to win the election that he once was,” said Norman Abjorensen, a Canberra-based political analyst at the Australian National University. “He’s had very little room to maneuver in regards to policy so that’s created a sense that this government has no narrative, and he needs to change the perception very soon.”
A major hurdle on the way to an early election will be the May 3 budget, with Treasurer Scott Morrison having little in the coffers to offer as pre-election sweeteners after government revenues plunged in the wake of falling prices for Australia’s resources.
Nervousness over the government appears to be having an impact on consumer confidence, which fell 1 percent in the week ending April 3 after a 1.6 percent decline in the previous two weeks, according to the ANZ/Roy Morgan weekly consumer confidence survey.
“With the coalition now behind in the polls and Prime Minister Turnbull’s personal ratings falling, optimism over the potential for the current government to implement lasting reform seems to be fading,” Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. researchers Felicity Emmett and Mandeep Kaura said in the report on Tuesday.
Labor leader Bill Shorten still trails Turnbull as preferred leader 48 percent to 27 percent, according to the Newspoll. The survey of 1,743 voters was conducted March 31-April 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.
The tightness in the opinion polls is not reflected in betting markets, where the coalition is still a clear favorite to win the next election. Online bookmaker Sportsbet is offering to return A$1.20 on every A$1 winning bet should the government retain power, with Labor paying A$4.50.