The latest Herald/Nielsen opinion poll has thrown up some interesting statistics, but following Wayne Swan’s mid-year budget review yesterday the government’s improved position could be short lived.
At almost any cost, the Gillard government is determined to deliver a budget surplus by 2012/13. In the process of attempting to show the Australian people it has credentials as an economic manager, the government runs the risk of cutting too deeply and in the process further offending unhappy voters.
It seems in Wayne Swan’s eyes good government begins and ends with economic management.
Despite the prime minister winning the head-to-head contest with Tony Abbott in all categories, the Nielsen poll says the Coalition would win an election if it was held tomorrow. Ms Gillard has a big lead over Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister. Her approval rating is higher than Mr Abbott’s and her disapproval rating is substantially lower than the Opposition leader’s, which now stands at 60 per cent of voters. These are worrying numbers for Mr Abbott.
His inability to earn the trust and respect of voters must be of concern for some within the Liberal ranks. Having a more popular leader might boost the Liberal Party’s position, but it is unlikely the only other viable contender – Malcolm Turnbull – could win the support he needs.
While Mr Turnbull is more generally respected and is a more popular personality, it is unlikely he could win the votes he needs to secure a leadership coup. The heavy hitters in his party see him as too moderate.
Mr Abbott and others repeatedly and correctly predict the next election will be close. With 57 per cent of voters now saying they want the Gillard government to run its full term, up
from 48 per cent when the government announced the carbon tax, voters are likely to be more considered when polling day arrives.
And as for Mr Swan and his mid-year budget review, it is obvious the original surplus forecast was based on revenue forecasts which were too optimistic, a trap for any government in tough economic times.