LABOR'S modest recovery in the polls is not being translated into the seats that matter for the government, making an early election unlikely.
Senior party sources have told Fairfax Media that despite the government's comeback over recent months, it was still struggling in western Sydney and would go backwards if an election were held now or any time soon.
The assessment is based on internal polling and anecdotal evidence from MPs, both of which finds the rebound in support for Labor is occurring where the party needs it the least - safe inner city seats, such as Grayndler and Sydney, and Coalition seats such as Wentworth, held by Malcolm Turnbull, which Labor will not win.
''We're still showing negative in the west,'' said one official.
For example, the western Sydney seat of Werriwa, held formerly by Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham, would fall to the Liberal Party should an election be held now, the source said.
Labor's Laurie Ferguson holds Werriwa by a margin of 6.8 per cent.
To stay in government, Labor needs to win extra seats at the next election.
Tuesday's Newspoll has the Coalition in front of the government on a two-party preferred basis, 51 to 49 per cent.
This is a slight increase from the Newspoll a fortnight ago, which had the parties tied at 50-50.
In less positive news for Tony Abbott, support for the Opposition Leader is at its lowest level for three years, when he was elected to the Liberal leadership
The latest Essential Media poll published yesterday also showed the Coalition leading Labor on a two-party preferred basis - 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
Labor trails on the primary vote by 45 per cent to 37 per cent.
This is the same two-party vote as recorded in last month's Herald/Nielsen poll. While the Coalition has a 4 percentage point lead, enough to win an election, that lead has been whittled back from 16 points in June, giving Labor hope that it can still win.
However, Labor's problem in western Sydney - which also exists in other demographically similar areas around Australia - was driven home during the NSW local government elections in September, when Labor fared poorly in such areas as Liverpool, Camden, Blacktown and Bankstown.
One source said the party was struggling federally in those same areas.
After the council elections, the NSW ALP general secretary, Sam Dastyari, said the government should wait as long as possible before calling the election and that advice still stands. There has been growing speculation the government will go to the polls early next year to avoid handing down a deficit budget in May.
''The early election talk is bullshit,'' a senior minister told Fairfax Media on Monday.
The government is no longer promising a surplus budget this year in what it regarded as a process of softening the electorate for a deficit should the economy continue to slow.
with Judith Ireland