Phillip Coorey -Apr 3, 2012
"This is not the time for turning" ... Gillard's cabinet stands strong after the latest Herald/ Nielsen poll revealed another slump in ALP's popularity. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
THE long-term poll trend against Labor since the last federal election would cost it at least 18 seats in the key states of NSW, Queensland and Victoria if it persisted until election day, an analysis of the Herald/Nielsen polls shows.
As Labor reeled from the latest Nielsen poll, published this week and showing another slump in ALP fortunes, a dumped cabinet minister, Robert McClelland, questioned the government's mandate for the carbon tax and attributed its low standing to the public's being ''absolutely repulsed'' by political spin.
Labor's problems with voters appear entrenched. The simple averages of the results of the 18 polls since the last election show there has been a 6 per cent swing to the Coalition in NSW alone. If repeated on election day and the swing were uniform, it would cost Labor nine seats in the state.
The polls sampled 22,200 people and, when aggregated, provide robust samples on a state-by-state basis. They show an average swing in Queensland during the past 18 months of 5 per cent, enough to cost Labor at least five seats, while the same swing in Victoria is worth another three seats to the Coalition.
After yesterday's poll showed Labor's primary vote had fallen back to 27 per cent, senior ministers rallied around Julia Gillard and the price on carbon, regarded as central to the government's problems.
The Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, said the Prime Minister was working for the national interest. ''If that means we have to take a hit in the polls, well we just have to accept that because we will not turn on the carbon price,'' he said. ''This is not [the] time for turning.''
Dr Emerson said that like the carbon price, the GST was unpopular in the polls when first mooted as policy and up until it was implemented.
Public opposition to the GST softened once it was implemented and the government is banking on the same occurring when the carbon price starts on July 1 and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, must explain why he will take back the associated compensation of pension and family payment increases and tax cuts.
Mr McClelland, who backed Kevin Rudd in the leadership spill in February and was demoted to the backbench afterwards, told ABC radio yesterday: ''If it's game as usual, we won't be in the finals''.
Everyone, including the leadership, needed ''to look at firstly how we are perceived in the community and how we are communicating and engaging with the community''. Asked why Labor was polling so badly, he said: ''I think Australians are absolutely repulsed by a sense of political spin''.
Asked about the impact of Ms Gillard's election promise not to introduce a carbon tax, Mr McClelland questioned the legitimacy of the policy. ''Clearly people go to the election on the basis of undertakings made prior to the election and it does affect a sense of legitimacy - and there is no doubt that it is an issue, a burning issue that needs to be resolved,'' he said. ''It goes to the whole issue of political mandate and what Australian people see as the legitimacy of government decision making.''
The Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, said reports that he was being lined up to succeed Ms Gillard closer to the election were ''just not true''.
''That matter was put to bed. It's been dealt with,'' he said.
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