Federal Politics


Labor within 'striking distance': Smith

Federal government frontbencher Stephen Smith says this year's election will be a ''toughly-fought" contest with recent opinion polls putting Labor within ''striking distance'' of the Coalition.

Speaking after the release of the first Newspoll of the year - which shows Labor's primary vote has risen six points to 38 per cent, while the Coalition's vote has dropped two points to 44 per cent - the Defence Minister, Mr Smith, said he had always expected Labor to become more competitive in the new year.

''I always believed that as we moved into 2013, that people would see the start of a political competition and that Labor and the Prime Minister would be very competitive,'' Mr Smith told reporters in Perth.

''At the end of 2012 and the beginning of this year, you essentially see a range of polls which, whilst they have the Coalition in front, have the government within striking distance.''

Despite Labor's recovery in its primary vote, the Coalition retains the lead on a two-party-preferred basis, 51 to 49 per cent. The last Fairfax/Nielsen poll of 2012, had the Coalition ahead, 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

''Whether that's on a two-party preferred basis, 48-52, 50-50. I've always thought we would be competitive and it would be a toughly-fought competition,'' Mr Smith said.


Mr Smith said that he thought the polls were reflecting the Australian community's lack of confidence in Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as a potential prime minister.

He added that he expected the next federal election to be held in the second half of the year.

''I'm expecting September, October, November, a full three-year term,'' he said.

Finance Minister Penny Wong told ABC TV that there was only one poll that counted - the election.

"That's decided not on you and I having a discussion about polling, it's decided on who people think has got the head and the heart to run the country, and who's got the economic plans for Australia's future,'' Senator Wong said.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said he was sceptical about poll results during the festive season. But noted that the Coalition had expected the polls to narrow.

''At a federal level they always do,'' he told 2GB on Tuesday.

Acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss said that polls ''come and go''.

''There'll be a lot of them in the year ahead. It's an election year after all. Some will be up and some will be down,'' he told reporters in Lismore.

''All elections are hard and this one will be particularly difficult.''

In Tuesday's Newspoll, Prime Minister Julia Gillard retains the lead as better prime minister, polling 45 per cent to Mr Abbott's 33 per cent.

The poll did not bring good news for the Greens, who find themselves in single digits, down from an 11 per cent primary vote in the December poll, to 9 per cent. The Greens have not commented on the poll.

With AAP

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