Australia PM slides in polls

Voters overwhelmingly preferred ex-PM Kevin Rudd as Labor leader -- 60% to Gillard`s 31%.

Sydney: Australian leader Julia Gillard took another slide in the polls, with voters deserting her party in unprecedented numbers and strongly preferring Kevin Rudd, the man she deposed 12 months ago.

The latest Nielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers on Saturday, put support for Gillard`s ruling Labor party at just 27 percent, the lowest primary vote for a major party in the poll`s 39-year history.

Tony Abbott`s conservative Liberal party had 49 percent of the vote, according to the survey of 1,400 Australians, rising to 59 percent with smaller party preferences, against Gillard`s 41 percent.

Taken as the prime minister struggles to introduce a tax on pollution to tackle climate change and broker a refugee swap deal with Malaysia, the poll put dissatisfaction with Gillard at 59 percent, a seven-point rise from May.

Only 37 percent approved of her performance, and she was dead even with Abbott in the prime ministerial stakes, both polling at 46 percent.

Voters overwhelmingly preferred ex-PM Kevin Rudd as Labor leader -- 60 percent to Gillard`s 31 percent -- just days before the first anniversary of his dumping as leader in a shock party-room coup.

A Newspoll earlier this week put Labor`s vote at 45 percent to the opposition`s 55 percent and showed support for Gillard had slumped to 30 percent -- lower than Rudd`s showing just prior to his axing.

Gillard said her ambitious policy agenda meant "political stresses and strains" were inevitable, but vowed to stay the course.

"We`ve got a plan which we are working through to deliver, which we did not have at the start of my prime ministership," she told Fairfax.

"I was determined to get the hard, big things done early so people had the benefits of seeing those reforms in action, not just contemplation."

Gillard failed to win last year`s election outright and heads a minority coalition with a margin of just one seat, dependent on a handful of independent and Greens MPs to support her rule.

Bureau Report