View from The Hill

Poor poll for Labor plays to Rudd’s ambition

Labor’s fall in today’s Nielsen poll will fan the leadership talk within caucus, and place enormous pressure on Julia Gillard. To put it bluntly, it’s just what the Rudd camp has been hoping for, because really bad polling is the only magic carpet on which the former prime minister could ride back into his old job.

The Nielsen poll, reported today in the Fairfax papers, shows the ALP primary vote down 5 points since December to 30 per cent. On a two party basis the Coalition leads by a huge 56-44 per cent if preferences are distributed according to how they went at the 2010 election.

Tony Abbott has risen by 9 points as preferred prime minister over the summer, while Gillard has fallen by 5 points. He leads her 49-45 per cent, the first time he has been ahead in many months.

The result shows once again that Labor is headed for an electoral disaster. It will overshadow Gillard’s $1 billion industry and innovation package, designed for the blue collar battlers.

While the full caucus won’t be back in Canberra until next month, the poll will be destabilising for the PM, who has not been able to take a trick since the political year began. It will remind many Labor MPs that they are out of kilter with the general public: more than six in ten would prefer Kevin Rudd as leader and a little over half the voters think Labor should change. People have warmed towards Rudd and change since September.

Meanwhile Rudd continues to parade his wares, despite yesterday flatly denying he has any ambition to ever return to the leadership.

In a long interview on Sky TV he again admitted to his past mistake on carbon pricing. “I made a great error of judgement in terms of the deferral of the emissions trading scheme,” he said. And, after last week shifting the blame to Treasurer Wayne Swan for the mining tax fiasco, he said: “The big debate over the mining tax, ultimately that was my call. I was the Prime Minister. Sure, other ministers, including the Treasurer, had central roles but it was ultimately my call.” A touch of humility is necessary.

But he would not say what should be done about the tax if Labor were re-elected. The Nielsen poll shows the tax, in its present form, has minimal support.

Rudd’s hefty broadsides against Abbott carried the implicit message that he would be Labor’s most effective weapon against the opposition leader. But, with some criticism in caucus ranks of his being so “out there”, Rudd has rescheduled an engagement he had Wednesday in Adelaide, where there is a federal community cabinet meeting. After the suggestion he was stalking the PM was splashed in the media, he said he did not want any controversy to detract from the important work she and the team would be doing there. Apparently the city is too small for both of them to be performing, albeit on separate stages.