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Newspoll indicates approval for the budget but no guarantee of votes for the Liberal Party.

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Tuesday 18 May 2004

Newspoll indicates approval for the budget but no guarantee of votes for the Liberal Party


MARK COLVIN: Australians like Peter Costello's budget. But they're less likely to vote for the Government which delivered it. Well they say they are. 


That's the paradoxical message from Newspoll today, which has the Prime Minister claiming underdog status. It's also got the Government hammering the comparison of two teams - Howard and Costello versus Latham and Crean. 


The influential poll has already brought a change in the expectation of the chances of an August election. 


As Louise Yaxley reports, the Government's selling the pro-family parts of its budget, while Labor is making headway with its emphasis on the people who missed out. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Newspoll shows the big spending family budget has been well received but might not be enough to give the Coalition a fourth federal term.  


On a two-party preferred basis, Labor's now leading the Coalition 54 to 46, even though 50 per cent of people thought the budget was good, compared to 22 per cent who told Newspoll it was bad.  


The Newspoll can move the political agenda, and it's been a keenly awaited test of this pre-election budget.  


The Treasurer says it shows that his budget has been well received.  


The Prime Minister's view is that it's too early to use this fortnight's Newspoll to judge the response to a budget. 


JOHN HOWARD: If governments are to get any poll bounce out of opinion, out of budgets, that normally doesn't occur until some weeks after the budget is brought down. That was certainly the case back in 2001, and it's certainly the case now. Now I'm not saying we will get a poll bounce. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Treasurer is out talking up the merits of his budget. 


PETER COSTELLO: I don't know that it's difficult to sell. I think that there's a lot of misinformation that's been put out there, and that's one of the reasons why I'm taking every opportunity to explain the situation.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: But taking every chance to explain means he's open to every complaint. 


TALKBACK CALLER 1: You didn't bring any tax relief into the people under $52,000. Look, I think you made a terrible mistake. I think it's going to boomerang. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Prime Minister was receiving the same sort of message from talkback callers too. 


HOST: You're talking to John Howard. 


TALKBACK CALLER 2: Oh, G'day Mr Howard.  


Look, I would like to know why in your budget the average battler under $52,000 has not got one cent in his rebate in tax. 


TALKBACK CALLER 3: Good morning, Leon, Prime Minister.  


I've got a question which affects quite a majority of people in South Australia, and the question is - can you live on about $380 to $390 a week? 


JOHN HOWARD: Look, I would find that extremely difficult.  


And, look, I acknowledge that, and I feel for people who are in that situation. That is why we have increased the safety net for pensioners in this country. We not only now have half yearly indexation of pensions, but we also guarantee that they will never fall below 25 per cent of male total average weekly earnings, which is an additional level of guarantee that did not exist before we came to Government. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Costello's emphasising the benefits for families, especially the $600 payment for each child, but that also brings reminders of families who've had run-ins with Centrelink over their family payments. 


TALKBACK CALLER 4: Look, I'm just ringing up. I'm interested about the $600 per child that we are going to be receiving before the 30th of June.  




TALKBACK CALLER 4: I just want to ask you - are you aware, if you have a disputed debt with Centrelink... 




TALKBACK CALLER 4: ... are they automatically going to take out what they're owed, or do we just automatically get the $600? 


PETER COSTELLO: No, you'll be getting $600 before the 30th of June, 2004. That will be… normally it's just an electronic transfer into your bank account. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Government's response for people earning less than $52,000 is to emphasise last year's cuts, the ones dismissed as "sandwich and a drink" tax cuts.  


Mark Latham's arguing Labor would give broader tax cuts, but he's giving no detail, and he continues to promise more spending on services. 


MARK LATHAM: Well the polls come and go.  


I think what this one's saying is that the Australian people want better health and education services. They didn't get that in the budget. Labor's very committed to better health and education, particularly for our young people it's vital, also for older generations. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The poll will disappoint those in the Coalition who'd hoped for the expected opinion poll bounce.  


But Mr Howard is using it to claim the underdog status. His message to voters is to remind them that Simon Crean, who didn't win nearly as much support in opinion polls as Mark Latham has, would be a key player in a Labor government. 


JOHN HOWARD: I think it indicates at the moment that if an election had been held today or last weekend, the Labor Party would have won.  


Why? Well it's a combination of reasons.  


We've been in power for eight-and-a-half years. There's always interest when there's a new leader taking over an opposition party. Mr Latham has done better than Mr Crean. On the other hand, as we get closer to the election people will face the choice of whether they want the economy managed by the Howard-Costello team or by the Latham-Simon Crean team, because if we lose the next election Mr Latham becomes the Prime Minister and Simon Crean becomes the Treasurer.  


Now people will think about that and they'll contemplate whether it's a good idea to hand over economic management, given the record of this Government over the last eight-and-a-half years to Mr Crean as Treasurer with Mr Latham as Prime Minister. 


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister John Howard, ending Louise Yaxley's report.