Abbott claws back but university fee deregulation deeply unpopular

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s personal approval has gone up. AAP/Lukas Coch

Most voters oppose the government’s plan to deregulate university fees according to a poll that shows Labor’s two-party lead has narrowed since mid-year and Tony Abbott’s approval has risen.

The Fairfax Ipsos poll, which replaces the Nielsen poll but can be compared with its results, found 64% rejected the idea of universities and colleges having the ability to set fees at levels they choose. Only 28% supported it.

The government is trying to get its university reform package through the Senate. It is willing to make compromises but wants to get support for the key deregulation pillar. Clive Palmer, however, is still saying he will block its passage.

Labor narrowly leads on a two-party preferred vote by 51%, down three points since July (the last Nielsen poll), to the Coalition’s 49%, up three points. Labor’s primary vote is down three points to 37%, while the Coalition’s vote has risen three points to 42% since mid-year. The Greens are on 12% and the Palmer United Party on 3%.

In NSW Labor trails the Coalition 48-52% in two party terms, but in Victoria the ALP is ahead 57%-43%. The Victorian election is at the end of this month, and the federal government is considered one of the handicaps for the state Coalition government. Premier Denis Napthine said last week that Canberra’s fuel indexation increase, to start this month, would hit Victorian motorists and businesses.

Abbott’s approval has increased four points since July, to 42%; his disapproval is down seven points to 49%. His better personal standing has come as much attention has switched to national security and related issues.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten’s approval is up two points since July to 43%; his disapproval is down four points to 40%.

The leaders tie on 41% as preferred prime minister, a fall of five points for Shorten and no change for Abbott.

The poll also found a majority (52%) against increasing the GST, even when that was accompanied by personal income tax cuts; 41% supported. Abbott has explicitly put changes to the GST on the political agenda, although he has said it is ultimately a matter for the states, which get all the GST revenue.

Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme, which is supposed to start mid-2015 but may lack Senate support, is opposed by 54% in the poll, and supported by only 40%. However it receives strong support (64%) among those who have children aged under five. Among those who support the PPL scheme, 57% believe it should be implemented as a high priority.

The poll of 1401 was taken between Thursday and Saturday.