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Government unmoved by opinion poll slump -

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Government unmoved by opinion poll slump

Lyndal Curtis reported this story on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: As it faces its first significant opinion poll slump, the Federal Government's
catch-cry today is that it is focussing on the national interest rather than on the polls.

The Opposition though is happy to analyse the numbers and it says they reflect what it is calling a
comprehensive policy failure by the Prime Minister on asylum seekers and border protection.

The latest Newspoll shows the Federal Government's primary vote slumping by seven points.

All of that has gone to the Coalition to put it level with the Government.

In Canberra chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis, reports.

LYNDAL CURTIS: It's a big hit to the Government but nonchalance was the order of the day for
Labor's senior figures.

KEVIN RUDD: Well, you know I have been Prime Minister for nearly two years now and I have said
consistently with any opinion poll that is ever produced at any time, I simply do not comment for
the simple reason, I am not a commentator.

Polls go up, polls go down.

WAYNE SWAN: Look, polls come and polls go. They go up and they go down. I don't take a great deal
of notice of them when they are on the upside and I don't take a great deal of notice when they go
down.

CHRIS BOWEN: Look whenever the polls have gone up we have said that polls will go up and the polls
will go down and when the polls go down we will suffer. The polls will go and polls will go down.

That is for commentators to speculate on.

LYNDAL CURTIS: And the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Financial Services Minister Chris
Bowen are adamant the poll isn't shifting their focus.

KEVIN RUDD: My job is to govern in the national interest because my job is to make decisions in the
long term national interest, not to act as a commentator.

WAYNE SWAN: Well I don't have to worry on a daily or weekly basis about opinion polls because what
I am concerned about is the national economic interest.

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, of course you have a view to what the public is thinking at any particular time
but at the end of the day you focus on the job at hand.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Opposition frontbencher Tony Abbott says there's just one reason for the poll
turnaround.

TONY ABBOTT: I think the biggest single factor has been the comprehensive policy failure when it
comes to boat people. I mean people understand that John Howard found a problem and created a
solution. They understand that Kevin Rudd found a solution and has created one awful problem.

This isn't one of those grey areas like, for argument's sake, the problems with the school spending
where you could say sure there has been massive waste in efficiency but at least we've kept the
country out of recession.

This boat people disaster is just all bad news.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The Treasurer says the Government won't be swayed from its course.

WAYNE SWAN: Well certainly we won't be changing our policies in response to weekly opinion polls.
That is not the way we govern.

LYNDAL CURTIS: On ABC radio in Bundaberg, the Prime Minister too was sticking to his guns.

KEVIN RUDD: What the Government is doing is ensuring that it implements its tough, responsible but
fair policy - the one we took to the people prior to the last election and it is the one which
serves Australia's long-term interest.

It is tough and hard line on people smugglers. It is humane on asylum seekers. That is a
responsible policy in the national interest. I understand that it won't necessarily be popular.
People from the right of politics won't like it. People from the left of politics won't like it but
my job is to get on with the business of doing it.

LYNDAL CURTIS: While the reasons for the change in the Government's fortunes are not explicitly
spelled out in the poll, it appears trying to fit in the one tent those who want to keep the boats
out and those who want asylum seekers brought in, along with the Government's loss of its previous
iron grip on the political agenda via 78 asylum seekers on board the Oceanic Viking who'd prefer
not to get off in Indonesia, have all had its impact. And it's one Tony Abbott hopes will be
lasting.

TONY ABBOTT: Once people have worked out that this Government and this Prime Minister is mortal,
they will start looking at all of the Government's policies with a more balanced eye.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The Labor Party has taken a hit in this poll. Kevin Rudd less so and none of the
falls translated into more support for Malcolm Turnbull. Why do you think that has occurred?

TONY ABBOTT: I think that the better PM numbers are a kind of lagging indicator but I'd be very
confident that a few more polls which show the Coalition and the ALP running neck and neck would
translate into much better preferred PM results.

Certainly I think Malcolm is entitled to feel pretty satisfied that by keeping the focus on the
Government for the last fortnight, by keeping the focus on Kevin Rudd's personal failure to resolve
this situation notwithstanding his much flaunted relationships with world leaders and his penchant
for taking phone calls and ringing them up in the middle of the night and sorting out all their
problems for them, notwithstanding all that, he hasn't been able to fix this which is vital for
Australia's national interest.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Liberals' Tony Abbott ending that report by Lyndal Curtis in Canberra.