Turnbull's Poll Lead Evaporates Amid Stalled Policy Agenda

  • Newspoll shows Labor draws level with coalition government
  • Government has ruled out major overhaul of taxation system

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s opinion-poll lead has evaporated amid criticism his Liberal-National coalition government has failed to deliver a clear policy agenda for Australia.

The opposition Labor party has drawn level with the coalition on a two-party preferred basis, according to a Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper Monday. The government held a 6 percentage point lead in the previous poll three weeks ago.

The survey is a blow to Turnbull, who catapulted the government into an election-winning lead after he cited a lack of economic leadership as his reason for ousting Tony Abbott in September. Business leaders have since criticized Turnbull, saying his government’s lack of progress on taxation reform is creating uncertainty for the country.

The government has ruled out a major overhaul of the taxation system and is yet to find a way to shrink the federal budget deficit. Resignations and retirements from his ministry forced Turnbull into a reshuffle of his leadership team last week.  

“By letting the policy debate drift without taking any action, the government is starting to look weak and indecisive,” said Nick Economou, a Melbourne-based professor at Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry. “Voters expect their governments to manage debates and take control, and that just hasn’t happened yet under Turnbull.”

Narrowing Lead

The government’s stalled agenda may have allowed Labor to steal the initiative. The opposition’s proposal to scale back tax breaks for landlords, which have helped fuel a 50 percent increase in property prices in capital cities since 2008, appears to have won voter support. The Newspoll survey on Monday showed 47 percent were in favor of the measures, with 31 percent opposed.

Turnbull’s lead as preferred prime minister over Labor leader Bill Shorten fell 5 points, according to the Newspoll. He still leads 55 percent to 21 percent. The poll of 1,807 voters has a margin of error or plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Prior to the poll, media speculation had been intensifying that the prime minister may call a snap election, after previously stating he intended to hold the ballot in August at the earliest.

“With the opinion polls now showing a tighter race, the government is probably going cool on the idea of an early election,” Economou said.

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