Prime Minister Tony Abbott heads to the annual economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, next week to sell the world on Australia's priorities and its chairmanship of the G20 grouping, which will meet in Brisbane in November.

Back home he has a much harder sales job: convincing an increasingly sceptical nation that his four-month-old Government can produce the goods it promised in its campaign for the September election.

He has not had much success so far. By December the shortest post-election honeymoon in Australia's political history was well and truly over, with an end-of-year Newspoll confirming earlier findings that Labor had achieved greater support among voters - 52-48 per cent in the two-party preferred vote than decides Australian governments.

Yesterday the first major poll of the year said that even the normally forgiving festive break had done nothing for the Government.

Advertisement

Morgan Research found that on a two-party preferred basis Labor led the Coalition 52.5-47.5 per cent, a margin sufficient for a clear win had an election been held now. Support for the Greens rose slightly to 10.5 per cent of the primary vote.

Although worrying for the Government, its present unpopularity is far from terminal. It still has more than two years to sort out its present mess, consolidate, and run a potent campaign at the next election.

It will need to make deep inroads relatively soon, however, if it is to ensure that its early problems are purged from the notoriously short memory of the national electorate, and to successfully counter what will be a relentless assault by Labor.

And the mandate claimed by the Government after its thumping victory is a fragile structure. A large and deciding bloc of voters voted Labor out rather than Abbott in, and his performance since taking power is apparently causing many to have second thoughts.

His major policy promises of axing the carbon and mining taxes have been stumped by Labor and the Greens in the Senate and will have no chance of succeeding until the new Upper House sits in July.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne's efforts to backflip on election guarantees and overturn Labor's education reforms fell flat on their face, claims to economic superiority and aversion to debt have been undermined by vast new borrowing plans, and the cuts made so far have largely targeted the vulnerable.

Proposals to charge for previously free GP visits has sparked outrage and fears the Government is planning to undermine the Medicare universal healthcare system.

Abbott is also struggling to repair relations with Indonesia hammered by spying revelations and asylum seekers, including the turning back of boats against Indonesian protests.

Advertisement

The Government is at best seen as a learn-as-you-go Administration clambering to get to grips with a nation beset by turbulent seas.

The economy is under siege, especially in the politically charged areas of manufacturing and employment. Holden will shut down production in 2016, and Qantas needs Government action of some kind to survive.

Unemployment is rising. Official November figures show the jobless rate nudging up to 5.8 per cent. Morgan's wider-based monthly survey yesterday doubled the rate to 11.2 per cent, its highest in 20 years.

Now the Government has picked two tough new fights, against the federal public service over pay and job security, and the nation's educators over plans to review the new national schools curriculum introduced by Labor.