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Coalition gaining ground on Rudd Govt -

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The latest Newspoll released today was by far the worst of the Rudd Government's term. On the two
party measure Labor has dropped five points to 49 per cent, trailing the Coalition which is on 51.
Political editor Chris Uhlmann reports from Canberra with the latest.

Transcript

TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: It wasn't a good start to the morning for the Prime Minister when he
opened The Australian to find the latest Newspoll, by far the worst of the Government's term. Not
only is the Opposition in the lead on voting preferences, but Kevin Rudd's personal standing has
taken a big hit as well. On the two party measure, Labor has dropped five points to 49 per cent,
trailing the Coalition which is on 51. The Prime Minister's approval rating has fallen further down
11 points and 50 per cent of the population now don't like the way he does his job. Fingers are
being pointed at the Government's decision to dump its emissions trading scheme, a policy once
touted by Kevin Rudd as the greatest moral challenge of our time.

I'm joined now by our political editor Chris Uhlmann.

Chris Uhlmann, what can we make of such a dramatic shift in the polls?

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: Well the first thing to say, Tracy, is that we shouldn't rush to a hasty
judgment. This is one poll. There is a one in 20 chance that it's an outlier or a rogue poll, so
we'll have to wait and see a trend. But those who examine these things in fine detail do believe
that there is a story in this and the story is essentially about Kevin Rudd. He is burning
political capital at a remarkable rate. If you look at his approval and disapproval ratings, his
approval is down, his disapproval is up markedly. He now has a net disapproval rating of minus 11
per cent. Now that's indicative of a much older prime minister - a prime minister in his third term
rather than in his first term. So that is really beginning to worry some of the political hardheads
inside the Labor Party.

He's had a disastrous couple of weeks of blunders and backflips. If you think of the Emissions
Trading Scheme as being totemic of all those things, but among them also is what's happened on
insulation. What we've seen on the Building the Education Revolution where they've had to set up an
inquiry on that and on asylum seekers where they've changed their position. But of all those
things, the totemic one is the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Now, the Prime Minister essentially put this country on a war footing with climate change. He said
it was the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time and then he shelved the battle plan.
Now, you don't do that if you actually believe you're in that kind of grave danger, if you're
fighting essentially for your future. That essentially has been noticed by the electorate and now
he's raised a question mark over himself and the question mark is one of trust. They are wondering
whether or not this is a prime minister that can be believed.

TRACY BOWDEN: Does this mean then the Government risks losing the next election?

CHRIS UHLMANN: No, because polls essentially are a snapshot of a fragment of the community taken at
a moment in time which essentially has already passed. Australians do give their governments the
benefit of the doubt, particularly first-term governments. They are loathe to kick governments out
after just one term and they would be thinking largely at this moment on the Labor Party's side
that they haven't done enough to lose government, that a protest vote against the Government is not
going to get the Coalition over the line.

And there's a lot of question marks about Tony Abbott as well. He has energised his base, but he
has yet to capture the middle ground and there are those that believe that he can't capture the
middle ground because he's too divisive a figure of course. We'll wait and see, and in an election
year perhaps anything can happen.

But I would pose a problem for the Prime Minister beyond this election year: because the things
that he has done are values issues for the Labor Party, there is extreme disquiet within his party.
There is an internal haemorrhaging of trust in him. So he might make it past the next election, but
then the question will be whether his party will let him see a third one and how long it will be
before they might move to replace him.

TRACY BOWDEN: On another matter: yet another interest rate rise today. The sixth in eight months.
What might that mean?

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, it's only 4.5 per cent now the cash rate. The Reserve Bank says that it's -
well, it's signalling that we're not likely to see another rate rise in a hurry. But there have
been six rate rises in eight months. So the pace of these rate rises will be telling on people. And
let's go back again to the last election campaign and remember that this government ran a kitchen
table economics campaign against the Howard Government. They talked about fuel prices, they talked
about grocery prices, they talked about interest rates. They give people the impression that they
could do something about that. It's just possible, as we approach the election, that people
remember that and add that to the tally of things that they're unhappy about about this government
and this prime minister.

TRACY BOWDEN: And just finally, Chris, more bad news for the Government tomorrow.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well the Auditor-General is set to bring down the report on the Building the
Education Revolution program. You can imagine that there is a lot in there of which the Coalition
will make great play. And there is a sense within the Coalition, too, that the insulation program
and the school building program is biting in the community because there are tradies in the
community that have stories about this. Now the Government would say this has been a huge positive,
that there are schools that are happy round the country and no doubt that's true. But there are
negatives to be told and it may also again play into whether or not this is a competent government.

TRACY BOWDEN: Chris Uhlmann, thanks for speaking to us.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Thanks, Tracy.