SYDNEY – Australia’s opposition Liberal-National coalition has widened its lead over the Labor government in an opinion poll, signaling leader Tony Abbott may replace Kevin Rudd as prime minister after the Sept. 7 election.
Support for the coalition rose to 53 percent on a two-party preferred basis last week from 52 percent two weeks earlier, while those voters backing the ruling Labor Party fell one point to 47 percent, according to a Herald-Nielsen poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper Saturday. Support for Rudd as preferred prime minister fell to 48 percent from 50 percent while 45 percent of those surveyed backed Abbott, up from 42 percent.
“I don’t believe in the polls, it’s a very, very close race,” Abbott told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday. “This campaign still has a long, long way to run.”
Both sides’ ability to promise pre-election sweeteners has been hit by falling government revenue as they each have put management of the world’s 12th-largest economy at the center of their campaigns for the election. The Labor government is pressuring the coalition to release details of the costs of its policies, including Abbott’s proposed paid parental leave system.
The Nielsen poll interviewed 2,545 voters by telephone between Aug. 18 and 22 and had a margin of error of 1.9 percent. If the level of support for each party in the poll is maintained until the election, Labor will lose 10 of its seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives in the Australian Parliament. The coalition only needs to win four additional seats to form a government and for Abbott to become prime minister.
A separate survey of voters in Rudd’s Brisbane electorate of Griffith showed the prime minister is at risk of losing his own seat, a Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper Saturday showed. Support for Labor was at 48 percent in Griffith, compared with 52 percent for the coalition on a two-party preferred basis, according to the Wednesday-Thursday poll of 500 voters that had a margin of error of as much as 4.4 percentage points.
On Saturday Rudd suspended his campaign to travel to Canberra to receive national security briefings on the crisis in Syria.