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levy gains majority voter support

Published 6:42 AM, 7 Feb 2011 Last update 1:15 PM, 7 Feb 2011

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QUICK SUMMARY | FULL STORY | POLITICS | ECONOMY

AAP

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s flood levy has gained majority support among voters, but Labor has recorded is lowest support since Ms Gillard took office, according to the latest Newspoll.

The poll, published in The Australian newspaper, shows 55 per cent of voters are somewhat or strongly in favour of the $1.8 billion proposed flood levy.

A total of 41 per cent said they were somewhat or strongly against the levy, with the remaining four per cent uncommitted.

Labor’s primary vote has slipped two points since the last poll in early December to a low of 32 per cent in February.

Primary support for the coalition surged three points over that period to 44 per cent.

Labor’s two-party preferred support slipped two points to 48 per cent while the coalition gained two points to 52 per cent.

Ms Gillard’s job performance approval rating remained stable at 45 per cent.

Voter satisfaction for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also went unchanged, staying at 42 per cent.

On the question of who would make a better prime minister, Ms Gillard’s support slipped four points to 48 per cent while Mr Abbott’s support increased three points to 35 per cent.

Not getting excited

Federal Labor has played down the poll, saying it is nothing to get “over-excited” about.

Government frontbencher Anthony Albanese said a poll two-and-a-half years out from the next election should be put into context.

“To get over-excited about it is I think a wrong response,” he told ABC Radio.

“It’s pretty clear what the polls have been (since the August election) is 50-50.”

Mr Albanese preferred to emphasise Ms Gillard’s 13-point lead over Tony Abbott has preferred prime minister, notwithstanding her satisfaction rating falling four percentage points to 48 per cent.

“It shows once again, she’s considerably ahead of Tony Abbott,” he said.

Mr Albanese said he expected voters to react negatively eventually to Mr Abbott’s “constant opposition, opposition and then more opposition”.

“Tony Abbott’s problem is that he doesn’t nuance on anything,” he said.

Mr Albanese defended the prime minister from criticism during the summer floods crisis.

“None whatsoever,” he said when asked whether the party was concerned about her demeanour which critics said lacked empathy.

“Julia Gillard has shown leadership and governed through a very difficult period.”

When asked whether the prime minister’s position was safe, Mr Albanese said: “Absolutely, absolutely.”

Newspoll chief Martin O’Shannessy said the poll findings reflected a “very tough December-January” for Ms Gillard.

“Her personal rating is really suffering,” he told Sky News of a four-point lift in the level of dissatisfaction (42 per cent) with the prime minister.

“That’s a pretty tough position for her.”

It was Ms Gillard’s worst rating since becoming Labor leader.

Labor’s primary vote support was in the “very dangerous” territory and lower than it was when Kevin Rudd was prime minister, Mr O’Shannessy said.

Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles said Australians would judge very harshly Mr Abbott’s response to the floods recovery effort.

“We know that his political strategy is to pick a fight with us whenever and wherever he can, but to do so over a national tragedy is tacky,” he told Sky News.

Charities say flood levy critical

Charities and community groups helping Queenslanders rebuild their lives are demanding federal MPs support the levy.

Groups, including the St Vincent De Paul Society and Salvation Army, say the levy is crucial for people and communities shattered by the summer floods and cyclone Yasi.

“Our call for parliament to act quickly is motivated by the need to ensure people receive the help they need,” Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie told AAP.

Ms Goldie will join other community sector representatives in Canberra on Monday to lobby politicians to support the legislation.

They are also seeking assurances services and benefits, including the disability support pension (DSP), will be spared further budget cuts.

The sector has been critical of government cuts to climate and low-cost housing programs to help fund the rebuild and ensure a budget surplus in 2012-13.

And it is concerned further savings will come from cuts to the DSP payment, after Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed to do more to get recipients back into work.

Close to 800,000 people claim the benefit, costing taxpayers $11 billion this year.

A group specialising in social security law warned the government against slashing the payment by $130 a week to bring it in line with the unemployment benefit.

“If the government’s participation agenda is little more than simply moving people with disabilities onto the lower-paying Newstart Allowance it will fail,” National Welfare Rights Network spokeswoman Maree O’Halloran said.

St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive officer John Falzon says long-term workforce participation cannot be achieved by keeping people on benefits below the poverty line.

“The people on the edges of the labour market deserve to live with dignity. The government knows this,” he said.

“We call for genuine welfare reforms that flow from this reality.”

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