Poll deals Rudd a rude shock

By Greg Ansley

Kevin Rudd. Photo / Greg Bowker
Kevin Rudd. Photo / Greg Bowker

Just months from the election that will decide if he governs Australia for three more years, Kevin Rudd has suffered the biggest boot in the pants of any Prime Minister in the past 20 years.

A Newspoll in the Australian yesterday not only delivered the electrifying news that the Opposition had overtaken Labor for the first time since 2006, but also that voter satisfaction with Rudd had plunged from 50 per cent to 39 per cent.

For the first time, more than half the nation is dissatisfied with a Prime Minister who, until recently, had enjoyed one of the longest political honeymoons observers can recall.

As news of the poll spread, money backing an election victory for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott began flooding into the internet betting agency Sportingbet Australia, shortening the Coalition's odds from A$3.40 to A$3.

"Labor are still clear favourites [to win] at A$1.36 but I can't see punters rushing back to them following this poll," said Sportingbet chief executive Michael Sullivan.

Rudd has done himself no favours. Apart from his apology on behalf of the nation to indigenous Australians, many of the key pledges of his 2007 election campaign failed to materialise.

His education programme is lagging, health reforms have been watered down and will cost an extra A$5.3 billion ($6.7 billion), and he has welshed on building over 200 childcare centres.

Rudd's A$47 billion stimulus package may have eased Australia through the global financial crisis, but its scale has come under repeated attack and been blighted by blunders such as the corruption and mismanagement of the subsidised home insulation scheme.

But the biggest own-goal was Rudd's decision to walk away from his proposed greenhouse emissions trading scheme.

His failure to meet what he termed "the greatest moral challenge of our time" has seen him howled down by environmentalists, sceptics, political enemies and the ferocious media.

Yesterday's Newspoll showed that voters are also furious. The climate change ascendancy Labor had enjoyed since coming to power fell almost to level-pegging with the Coalition and with the 26 per cent vote for "others" - mainly the Greens.

Labor's lead as the best manager of health and the Medicare universal healthcare system has also slipped - though not as disastrously - and Abbott is now seen as more decisive and stronger than Rudd.

If the Newspoll translated into real votes at the coming election, Abbott would win power. The Coalition had a 43 per cent to 35 per cent lead in primary votes, and led the two-party preferred vote that decides Australian elections by 51 per cent to 49 per cent.

But this is unlikely. All recent polling - Newspoll included - has shown a narrowing of Labor's lead, but still reported a comfortable winning margin for the Government.

Secondly, while Abbott has improved the Opposition's position and won back disillusioned supporters by articulating a defining conservatism, yesterday's poll showed he has failed to win over new voters.

- NZ Herald

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