Support for Australian govt tumbles after disasters

Australian PM fights for a new tax to pay for flood, cyclone reconstruction.

Updated: Feb 07, 2011, 09:25 AM IST

Canberra: The Australian government`s support has slipped to dangerously low levels following a summer of natural disasters and as Prime Minister Julia Gillard fights for a new tax to pay for flood and cyclone reconstruction, a new poll found on Monday.

If an election was held today, Gillard would be swept from office, according to the Newspoll in the Australian newspaper.

Primary support for the ruling Labor party had slipped to 32 percent, six points lower than at last August`s dead heat elections.

And the all important two party polling, the better indication of who would win an election, has Gillard`s Labor trailing with 48 percent compared to 52 percent for the conservative opposition.

But in some good news for the government, the Newspoll found 55 percent support for Gillard`s plan for a special floods tax on middle- and high-income families, to raise about AUD 1.8 billion to help pay for disaster reconstruction.

"Julia Gillard may have won the policy fight on her plan for a flood levy but it seems she has lost the politics of a summer of disasters," The Australian`s political editor Dennis Shanahan wrote on Monday.

Australia northeast has been hit by a series of floods and cyclones over the summer, with at least 35 killed and 30,000 homes inundated in the Queensland state, where floodwaters also wiped out roads, bridges and rail lines.

Floods also hit New South Wales and Victoria, while bushfires are currently burning around the Western Australian state capital of Perth, where dozens of houses have been raised.

Early estimates of damage have topped AUD 10 billion, and Gillard has promised more cuts to the national budget to fund more infrastructure reconstruction following the disasters.

The government plans to introduce laws into Parliament on Thursday for a special floods tax to last 12 months from July.

But Greens and independent lawmakers, which Gillard relies on for a majority in the lower house of Parliament, have yet to agree to the package.

The government`s primary support in the Newspoll is the lowest since the party dumped former prime minister Kevin Rudd in favour of Gillard last June.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese played down the poll, and said Gillard continued to hold a 13-point lead over opposition leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister.

"To get over-excited about it is I think a wrong response," Albanese told Australian radio.

Bureau Report