May 17, 2009
The Coalition has slashed Labor’s lead and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s popularity has fallen 10 points in an Age/Nielsen poll that also finds people don’t like the budget plan to raise the pension age.
Although most people believe the budget is fair and economically responsible, fewer are happy than with last year’s budget. Significantly more (38 per cent) say they personally will be worse off.
Labor’s two-party vote has fallen five points since March to 53 per cent, while the Opposition has risen five points to 47.
The poll is a reality check for the Government, and should scotch speculation about an early election.
Although they will hearten Opposition ranks, the figures still only take the Coalition back to its 2007 election position.
The Coalition’s primary vote has jumped six points in the past two months, with Labor falling three points. The ALP is now only one point ahead on primaries — 44 to 43 per cent.
This is the highest primary vote the Coalition has had since the election, although last September, with a lower vote, it led Labor on primaries.
In Victoria, the Coalition is five points ahead of Labor on primary votes — from being 20 points behind in March.
Mr Rudd’s approval is down sharply from his peak of 74 per cent but remains at a high 64 per cent; his disapproval has risen 10 points to 32 per cent. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is steady on 43 per cent approval and 47 per cent disapproval.
Mr Rudd has fallen five points to 64 per cent as preferred PM and Mr Turnbull is up four points to 28 per cent.
The national opinion poll of 1400 was taken from Thursday to Saturday.
Pollster John Stirton said that while Mr Rudd’s approval had dropped significantly, John Howard’s approval during his years as prime minister was 64 or better only four times.
Only 40 per cent backed the big budget surprise of a rise — phased in between 2017 and 2023 — from 65 to 67 in the eligibility age for the pension. This is designed to help finance the higher pension rate, boosted in the budget, for an ageing population. The increase was opposed by 56 per cent.
The budget was seen as fair by 56 per cent (down one point compared with the response after last year’s budget); 62 per cent were satisfied with it (down four points), while 52 per cent thought it economically responsible, and 38 per cent said it was not.
People feel notably more disadvantaged by this year’s budget than they did by the first Swan budget. There has been an eight-point fall on a year ago in those who say they will be better off (23 per cent), and an eight-point rise in those believing they will be worse off (38 per cent).
Mr Turnbull confirmed yesterday that the Opposition is set to let through the Government’s $1.3 billion alcopops legislation from last year’s budget, rejected earlier this year, which comes back into Parliament next month. It had been expected to become “trigger” legislation if the Government decided to have a double dissolution.
“We’ve got to take into account the budgetary environment has changed,” Mr Turnbull told Channel Nine. “Last year the budget was solidly in surplus, this year we have a record deficit.”
But the Coalition will vote against the means test on the health insurance rebate, which is worth $1.9 billion over the budget period.
Mr Turnbull said the means test was “an ideological political move to attack private health insurance and had nothing to do with budgetary or financial necessity”.
Treasurer Wayne Swan said he had always had private health insurance, “but I don’t expect to be subsidised by taxpayers on low and middle incomes, many of whom can’t afford private health insurance themselves”.