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Rudd could return as PM with Gillard losing public support

Kevin Rudd.
Kevin Rudd. Blainey Woodham

THE odds of Kevin Rudd returning to The Lodge improved dramatically today as a national poll showed a significant slump in support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the government.

Mr Rudd spent much of the past week - including six TV interviews - trying to hose down leadership speculation.

But his constant reassurances failed to convince online bookmaker Sportsbet, which slashed the odds of Mr Rudd leading Labor to the next election from $6 into $2.

At the same time Ms Gillard's chances of being at Labor's helm on September 14 drifted from $1.05 to $1.75.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Inga Williams

Only two months ago Mr Rudd, who a year ago this month failed miserably in challenging Ms Gillard for the top job, was considered a $9 chance to return to the leadership.

Meanwhile, the odds of a Coalition victory at the next election tightened further from $1.25 into $1.13, while Labor was rated a $5.50 chance in a two-horse race.

It came as Labor's primary vote dropped five points in the latest Nielsen poll to 30%, while support for the Coalition rose four points to 47%.

The 52-48% two-party-preferred lead the Coalition held in December has blown out to 56-44%.

It is the clearest sign yet voters are less than impressed with Labor's terrible start to the year, which began with Ms Gillard using a "captain's pick" to parachute Nova Peris into the number one position on Labor's Northern Territory Senate ticket.

For the first time in seven months Ms Gillard trails Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister.

Mr Abbott leads 49-45%, a huge turnaround from December when he trailed 40-50%.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. Chris Ison

The Prime Minister's approval rating dipped six points to 40%, while those who disapprove rose by the same amount to hit 56%.

Adding to the leadership speculation, the poll found 61% of respondents favoured Mr Rudd as prime minister compared to 35% for Ms Gillard.

The Prime Minister refused to be drawn on the disastrous poll result during an interview on morning television and at a later press conference in Brisbane.

"If I spent my time worrying about and commentating on opinion polls, then I wouldn't have time to get my job done, and the job is more important," Ms Gillard said.

Senior Gillard government minister Simon Crean was a little more candid during a radio interview with Paul Murray.

He said while there was volatility in the polls, the Nielsen result was a "wake-up call".

"You can't gild the lily," Mr Crean said.

Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean.
Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean. Inga Williams

"So again one can say easily that you shouldn't read too much into each poll but it's an important wake-up call for us and it shows what happens when you've got the internals detracting from you plus everything that's happening in New South Wales."

Mr Crean again described Mr Rudd as an "asset", but said it was vital he stayed on-message and did not actively seek to promote himself as the alternative leader.

"Now, I think that with one or two exceptions last week that's what he was doing," he said.

"I mean it was the fifth anniversary of ... saying sorry. He had made a commitment to be, I think, in Adelaide to do that. He should do it because he's got a proud legacy in terms of the sorry story.

"As I said before I think he is an asset, he needs to be a disciplined asset, he needs to understand how the dissension can cause difficulties for us, not just in terms of the polls but perceptions and the rumblings and it just detracts from us being able to get a consistency of message across."

Topics:  australian government elections julia gillard kevin rudd politics polls tony abbott



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