Poll points to strong Abbott win

The polls have got worse for Kevin Rudd on election day. AAP/Lukas Coch

Tony Abbott is set to clinch a strong victory at today’s election, according to a Nielsen poll that shows the Coalition leading 54-46% in two-party terms, a 4% swing since the 2010 election.

Labor’s primary vote has fallen to 33%, a drop of 2 points in a fortnight in the poll published in Fairfax Media, while the Coalition is on 46%, down a point. The Greens are up one point to 11%.

ALP private polling is indicating a swing against Labor in NSW of about twice the national average, and a heavy anti-Labor movement in Tasmania. If this is reflected today, Labor could lose up to 10 seats in NSW alone and two to three in Tasmania.

It expects to lose two to three in Victoria, and one to two in Queensland. The government is bracing itself for a loss overall of 20 seats and perhaps more.

Among those whose futures are on a knife edge are Treasurer Chris Bowen, in McMahon in NSW (7.8%) and his predecessor, Wayne Swan, now on the backbench who holds Lilley in Queensland (3.2%). Resources minister Gary Gray is being given a 50-50 chance of retaining his Western Australian seat of Brand, which is on 3.3%.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, who holds the western Sydney seat of Blaxland on more than 12%, said people like Bowen and himself would be needed in Parliament to hold Abbott to account if he became prime minister.

In the final day of campaigning Abbott was already talking about how a prime minister should lead, while Kevin Rudd continued to try to sow doubts about his opponent.

Asked about his leadership style if he became PM, Abbott told a news conference that “the big difference between a prime minister and an opposition leader is that an opposition leader inevitably is the leader of a tribe. A prime minister has to be the leader of a nation.

"A successful national leader understands that you’ve got to be a prime minister for everyone, even the people who don’t necessarily support you, even the people who won’t ever vote for you. You’ve got to treat them with respect.”

The final assurance he gave voters was that “we have to be a country which better rewards people who have a go, but the last thing we want to do is to leave anyone behind.”

He also appealed to people not to vote for minor parties and independents.

One of his senior frontbenchers, Sophie Mirabella, is fighting for her political life in the Victorian regional seat of Indi where she is under challenge from local independent Cathy McGowan.

In Queensland the parties formed by Bob Katter and Clive Palmer are complicating the contest.

Rudd said his message was: “If with one day to go you still have doubts about Mr Abbott’s hidden massive cuts and their effect on your jobs, your school, your hospital, your childcare centre and your NBN, then don’t vote for him.”

He said the published polls showed about a three percentage points gap between Labor and the Coalition. This represented 300,000-400,000 voters’ “who we need to get on our side of the pile before polling booths close”.

“My message to those 300-400,000 Australians is … if at this stage of the process you have got doubts about what Mr Abbott has in store for you, given he has kept his plans hidden until the last moment, then don’t vote for him.”

Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who is representing Rudd at the G20 summit in St Petersburg, urged “people to think what a conservative government with a big majority would be tempted to do”.

Former prime minister Bob Hawke said Rudd had made a mistake in not going to the polls earlier.