Rudd Election Defeat Looms as Polls Show Abbott Gains

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd trails the opposition ahead of next month’s Australian election as polls in the most marginal districts indicate coalition leader Tony Abbott may gain enough seats to form government.

Rudd’s voter satisfaction level fell four percentage points to 35 percent, the lowest recorded in his two stints as prime minister, according to a Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper today. Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition doubled its lead in the two-party preferred measure over Rudd’s Labor party to an eight-point margin.

“There’s no doubt we’re still the underdog, and there’s no doubt that Tony Abbott, if the election was held on the day it was announced would be the prime minister,” Finance Minister Penny Wong yesterday told Channel Nine television.

Both leaders have put management of the world’s 12th-largest economy at the center of their campaigns for the Sept. 7 ballot, amid slowing growth as a China-led boom in mining investment wanes. While Rudd initially narrowed the margin in opinion polls since defeating Julia Gillard in a June 26 Labor party ballot, Abbott has regained the upper hand in the most recent surveys.

“The polls show us that Rudd is failing to persuade swinging voters to switch to Labor,” said Nick Economou, a political analyst at Monash University in Melbourne. “His brief when he returned to the leadership was to try and avoid a landslide defeat and he still may do that. Australians vote for parties, not personalities, and the electorate seems to have decided that Labor has failed and should be replaced.”

Better Prime Minister

Labor stands to lose at least five seats in the election, according to separate polls published in the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald. The coalition needs to gain four additional seats to make Abbott the prime minister.

Rudd pledged A$500 million ($459 million) over the weekend to help the nation’s car industry after producers cut jobs and announced plant closures as lower tariffs and a strong Australian dollar make imported models cheaper. The coalition announced plans for a parental leave system to start from 2015 that would give mothers 26 weeks leave at their full wage.

On the question of who would make the better prime minister, Rudd fell three points to 43 percent, with Abbott gaining four points to 41 percent, today’s Newspoll showed. The poll, conducted Aug. 16-18, surveyed 1,692 voters and had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

The coalition now leads Labor on a two-party basis 54 percent to 46 percent. The two-party preferred measure is designed to gauge which party is most likely to form government under Australia’s preferential voting system.

Newspoll is 50 percent owned by News Corp. Australia and 50 percent by Millward Brown Inc., a market-research company.

Marginal Electorates

In the four most marginal districts held by each side, Labor would retain just one seat while failing to take any from the opposition if the election were held now, according to a JWS Research poll published in the Australian Financial Review Aug. 17. The ruling party is on course to lose two other seats in New South Wales state, a separate poll by ReachTel in the Sydney Morning Herald indicated the same day.

Labor, with 71 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, has relied on support from independent lawmakers and the Greens party since forming a minority government after the 2010 election. The coalition, which had 72 lawmakers in the chamber where government is formed, needs to increase that to 76 at the election to rule in its own right.

Beattie’s Struggle

“I am not getting ahead of myself,” Abbott told the Meet the Press program on Channel Ten yesterday. “I am not taking anything for granted.”

The JWS Research poll sampled the Labor-held seats of Lindsay, Greenway and Banks in Western Sydney and Corangamite in Victoria state. It canvassed the coalition seats of Brisbane and Forde in Queensland, Aston in Victoria and Macquarie in New South Wales.

Former Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie, who announced Aug. 8 he would contest Forde in the state’s southeast, is trailing incumbent member Bert van Manen by 33 percent to 54 percent on the primary vote, a 9.9 percent swing since the 2010 election, the poll showed, according to the Financial Review.

It sampled 568 people in Forde, now held by a 1.6 percent margin by van Manen, and the poll had a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

Labor is trailing in the seat of McMahon, held by Treasurer Chris Bowen, and in Kingsford Smith, which is being vacated by former minister Peter Garrett, according to ReachTel.

Federal support for Labor trails the opposition at 35 percent on the primary vote, slipping for a second week in a row, according to a Galaxy survey published yesterday in the Sunday Telegraph. The coalition’s primary support was unchanged at 45 percent. Galaxy puts the coalition at 52 percent and Labor on 48 percent on a two-party preferred basis.

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