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Record Labor low on carbon fury: Newspoll

  • UPDATED Dennis Shanahan, Political editor
  • From: The Australian
  • March 08, 2011 2:57AM

JULIA Gillard’s carbon tax plan has reversed public support for action on global warming, damaged her leadership and delivered Labor its lowest primary support on record.

Tony Abbott is now the closest he has been to Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister.

And, as satisfaction with the Prime Minister slumps just nine months after she agreed to challenge Kevin Rudd, she remains behind the Foreign Minister as the preferred Labor leader.

In just two weeks, Ms Gillard’s personal support has gone from its best since she became Prime Minister in June last year to her worst. It is now the same as Mr Rudd’s failing personal support when he began campaigning for the mining tax in May last year.

Since Ms Gillard announced her intention to introduce a carbon tax from July next year, overall positive public support for action on global warming, even if it meant rising prices for electricity and petrol, has turned negative. A majority of people, or 53 per cent, are now against Labor’s plan, with 42 per cent in favour.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, Labor’s primary vote crashed six percentage points to just 30 per cent, the lowest primary vote in Newspoll survey history. Previously, the lowest primary vote was 31 per cent, in 1993, when Paul Keating was prime minister and Australia was in recession.

The Coalition’s primary vote, after falling sharply two weeks ago because of internal divisions, bounced back to 45 per cent. This is the Coalition’s highest primary vote since March 2006, when John Howard was prime minister and nine months before Kim Beazley was replaced by Mr Rudd as opposition leader.

Primary support for the Australian Greens rose slightly to a near-record high of 15 per cent – exactly half of Labor’s primary vote – during a period when Bob Brown and his deputy, Christine Milne, claimed authorship of the carbon price plan and called for petrol to be included in the tax.

Ms Gillard, speaking from Washington this morning ahead of her meeting with US President Barack Obama, said she would not comment on the Newspoll but had always expected that putting a price on carbon would be “a tough fight”.

“I will continue to press to price carbon and we will get the done from the 1st of July, 2012,” Ms Gillard told reporters.

“It is fairly easy to stoke fears and Tony Abbott is a master at it.

“And he will continue to stoke fears.”

“But Australians, I believe, will come to see that pricing carbon is the right way to deal with climate change and the challenge of transforming our economy.”

The Opposition Leader has accused Ms Gillard of lying about the carbon tax and being too close to the Greens. He has pledged to repeal the tax if the Coalition is elected at the next election.

Ms Gillard said that every day Mr Abbott sought to stoke fears she would respond with facts and reason.

“I know that ultimately Australians will be confident enough to take this step of pricing carbon.”

“The Labor caucus believes in pricing carbon and when we embarked on this debate we knew it was going to be tough.”

Based on a distribution of preferences at last year’s election, the Coalition has surged in front of Labor, with a four-point rise to 54 per cent compared with the government’s 46 per cent.

It is the Coalition’s highest two-party-preferred vote since March 2005 and compares with the August election result of Labor on 50.1 per cent to the Coalition’s 49.9 per cent.

In the two weeks since Ms Gillard announced her intention to introduce a carbon tax, voter satisfaction with her has dropped 11 percentage points to 39 per cent – her lowest satisfaction rating since becoming prime minister and only three points above Mr Rudd’s rating the weekend before he was removed. Asked last weekend who was the preferred Labor leader between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd, the Foreign Minister secured 44 per cent support to Ms Gillard’s 37 per cent. This is similar to the result last May – before the leadership change – of 45 per cent for Mr Rudd and 40 per cent for Ms Gillard.

Dissatisfaction with Ms Gillard also spiked 12 points, taking her dissatisfaction level to 51 per cent, the first time she has been above 50 per cent.

After a complete reversal of her personal standing, Ms Gillard now has a negative satisfaction rating – the difference between positive support and dissatisfaction – of 12 percentage points compared with Mr Rudd’s negative 19 points when he was sacked by the Labor caucus.

Ms Gillard also dramatically lost ground as preferred prime minister to Mr Abbott, more than halving her 22-point lead two weeks ago to just nine points. She now leads Mr Abbott 45 per cent to 36 per cent, but two weeks ago held a 53 per cent to 31 per cent lead.

The personal standing of the Opposition Leader was little changed, with satisfaction on 39 per cent and dissatisfaction rising from 49 per cent to 51 per cent.

The previous overall support for action on climate change has shifted into majority opposition to the government’s plan for the first time.

According to the Newspoll survey last weekend, 53 per cent of voters say they are against the government’s plan to combat global warming with a carbon price that puts up the cost of gas, electricity and petrol.

Last December, voters were evenly split – 49 per cent against and 47 per cent in favour – over whether they were prepared to pay more for climate change action to slow global warming.

It appears the government’s announcement has crystallised opposition to the introduction of a carbon price that would push up the cost of living.

With Ms Gillard in Washington, Mr Abbott yesterday continued to campaign against the carbon scheme.

“This tax, whether it’s a straight tax or an emissions trading scheme, will hit people’s cost of living. It won’t clean up the environment but it will clean out your wallet.

“That’s the problem with Labor’s carbon tax,” he said.

Additional reporting: Matthew Franklin

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