On the front foot ... the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares
Julia Gillard has suggested a new poll showing support for Labor and the Coalition at a dead heat is an endorsement of her government's vision for the future.
Labor and the Coalition are tied at 50 per cent in two-party preferred terms, according to Newspoll.
Taken over the weekend, the poll is likely to dampen speculation about a comeback by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
The poll shows Labor's primary vote up from 33 to 36 per cent, and Coalition support down from 45 to 41 per cent. The Greens' primary vote is unchanged on 10 per cent.
Asked about the result this morning on Sky News, the Prime Minister said she did not comment on polls, but added: "I think there is a contrast in Australian politics. It's between Labor's plan for the future and the opposition lacking any plan."
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said polls would always be volatile.
"They move around quite a lot," Ms Bishop told ABC TV.
"I think that the government has made a number of very grand announcements in recent times about a national disability scheme, about the Gonski review. The cruel hoax, of course, is that they haven't got the funding to implement these announcements."
The poll showed satisfaction with Ms Gillard's performance was down slightly, from 36 to 35 per cent while Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's personal support dropped from 33 to 30 per cent.
Ms Gillard leads Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister 45 per cent to 34 per cent.
Finance Minister Penny Wong said Australians were getting to know Mr Abbott, and did not like what they saw.
"I think Australians are becoming increasingly clear about what Tony Abbott stands for and that's a pretty negative perspective - someone who's pretty good at saying 'no' and pretty good at going in for the aggressive attack but not very good at saying what he thinks is the right thing for the next generation of Australians, and what's the right thing for Australia's future," she told Channel Seven.
Ms Bishop said the gap in personal support between Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott was a reflection of the "vicious character assassination" perpetrated against the Opposition Leader recently by Labor.
"It's probably the worst I've seen," she said.
"It's up there with the character assassination that Labor carried out against Kevin Rudd earlier in the year. But Tony Abbott is a very focused person. He will get on with the job of ensuring that we come up with policies that the Australian people find attractive. That's what he's working on and that's what I'm sure he'll continue to do."
Asked today whether the poll result reflected Labor's attacks on him, Mr Abbott said: ''I will leave the nasty personal politics to the Labor party. I predict that we will see a lot more of that in the months leading up to the next election.
''This is a government that has run a blizzard of distractions, but come the next election, the government will be judged on its record, not on its spin.''I just get on with my job - it's holding a bad government to account, and it's presenting a credible alternative.''
Mr Abbott rejected the notion he lacked a positive vision.
The School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the poll was an endorsement of the government's policies.
"Ultimately, good politics is about good policy," he told Channel Ten.
"I think our policies are good, I think they're there for the national interest. We're really focused on making sure the kids in every school get the best education that they can. Polls will come, polls will go. That work continues."
The weekly Essential Report, out today, brought some less welcome poll news for the government.
Essential put the Coalition ahead, 54 per cent to Labor's 46 per cent, two-party preferred. This extended the Coalition's 53 to 47 per cent lead, recorded over the previous two weeks.