SYDNEY – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is on the brink of defeat in next month’s national elections, with a poll indicating that his ruling Labor Party will lose seven of the eight most marginal electorates.
An analysis of the seats, four of which are held by Labor and the others by the opposition coalition, show Rudd’s party would only win one if the election were held now, according to a JWS Research poll in the Australian Financial Review on Saturday.
Adding three seats would almost be enough to make Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal-National coalition, prime minister, it said.
With 71 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, Labor has relied on support from independent lawmakers and the Greens party since forming a minority government after the 2010 election. Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition, which had 72 lawmakers in the chamber where government is formed, needs to add four more at the Sept. 7 election to rule in its own right.
The JWS Research poll sampled the Labor-held seats of Lindsay, Greenway and Banks in western Sydney and Corangamite in Victoria state. It canvassed the coalition seats of Brisbane and Forde in Queensland, Aston in Victoria and Macquarie in New South Wales.
Of the eight seats, Labor’s best chance of victory is in Greenway although the newspaper said a result was “too close to call.” Coalition candidate Jaymes Diaz is leading incumbent Michelle Rowland by 46 percent to 44 percent on the primary vote, the survey shows.
Both leaders have put management of the world’s 12th-largest economy at the center of their campaigns amid slowing growth as a China-led mining investment boom wanes. While Rudd has narrowed the margin in opinion polls since defeating Julia Gillard in a June 26 Labor party ballot, Abbott remains on track to win government.
JWS Research sampled 568 people in Forde, held by a 1.6 percent margin by van Manen. The poll canvassed a total of 4,739 people and has a margin of error of 4.2 percent, the paper said.
A separate poll in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald shows Labor trailing in the seat of McMahon, held by Treasurer Chris Bowen, and Kingsford Smith, which is being vacated by former Minister Peter Garrett. The survey by ReachTel indicates the coalition will retain the seat of Bennelong while Labor may keep Blaxland.
Federal support for Labor trails the opposition at 35 percent on the primary vote, down 2 percent since the start of the election campaign Aug. 4, according to a Newspoll survey published Aug. 12 in The Australian newspaper. The coalition primary support rose 2 percent to reach 46 percent, a three-month high.
Newspoll puts coalition support at 52 percent and Labor on 48 percent on a two party preferred basis, under which votes from smaller parties are distributed to the two major parties under the nation’s preferential voting system.
Refugee stance frays
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was forced onto the defensive on the key election issue of asylum seekers Saturday, with cracks appearing in his hard-line refugee policy three weeks ahead of national polls.
Rudd’s so-called Papua New Guinea Solution allows people smuggled by boat to be sent to the impoverished Pacific nation even if found to be genuine refugees. But his PNG counterpart, Peter O’Neill, on Saturday indicated that the agreement is not open-ended — as had previously been suggested — and that there is a limit to the number of boat people it can take in.
“There is no agreement that all genuine refugees will be settled in PNG,” O’Neill told Fairfax newspapers. “We will take what we think we are able to assist, but we are also aware that we have our own issues with refugees from West Papua.”