Australia’s Rudd Faces Defeat in Marginal Seats, Newspoll Shows

Support for Australia’s Labor Party has collapsed on the east coast, according to a Newspoll that signals Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be defeated at a Sept. 7 general election.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition may pick up 20 additional seats in just the east coast states of New South Wales and Victoria, the Weekend Australian reported when it published Newspoll surveys today. Abbott’s coalition needs to win just four extra electorates to claim power.

Rudd, campaigning today in Australia’s most northern city of Darwin, said Abbott “thinks he has the election in the bag.”

This week’s Newspoll surveys were conducted in 13 marginal Labor-held seats. They show the coalition leads Labor on a two-party-preferred basis 53 percent to 47 percent in five coastal New South Wales electorates, 53 percent to 47 percent in three Victorian seats and 57 percent to 43 percent in five western Sydney divisions. The surveys have a margin or error of 3.5 percent.

A separate Newspoll published Aug. 26 showed Abbott’s coalition leading Rudd’s Labor nationally by six percentage points on a two-party-preferred basis. Online bookmaker Sportsbet said this week it was already paying out bets on the coalition winning the election, conceding it is convinced Labor has no chance of victory.

Both sides’ ability to promise pre-election sweeteners has been hit by falling government revenue as they each have put management of the world’s 12th-largest economy at the center of their campaigns. Labor is pressuring the coalition to release details of the costs of its policies, including Abbott’s proposed paid parental leave system.

Under Wraps

Abbott, campaigning in Perth yesterday, said his complete policy costings would be kept under wraps until “the end of next week,” the Age newspaper reported.

“Abbott is treating the Australian people with contempt because he believes he has the election in the bag,” Rudd said today in an interview broadcast on Sky TV. “This election will end up a little closer than people think.”

Speaking in Queensland today, Abbott downplayed the latest polls. “This is a very close election,” he said in a press conference broadcast on Sky TV. “ I think it’s inevitable that the polls will tighten sharply in the last week.”

Treasurer Chris Bowen and his predecessor Wayne Swan are also at risk of losing their seats at the election, the Australian Financial Review reported today, citing JWS Research polling of five Labor seats conducted on Aug. 28.

Rudd will officially launch Labor’s campaign in Brisbane tomorrow.

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