Julia Gillard has spent the past month campaigning energetically as she approaches the election. What difference has it made to Labor's standing with the people? None, according to Monday's Nielsen poll.
''Labor's vote has stabilised at levels that would see the government defeated in 1975 landslide proportions,'' the pollster, Nielsen's John Stirton says.
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Poll fuels Rudd talk
Why did Labor's poll recovery, turn sour? Nielsen's chief pollster looks at when things went wrong for the government.
It's now 2½ years since Labor was in a winning position in the poll and there are 179 days left to election day. Can Gillard turn it around? The campaign effort of the last month suggests not.
The Prime Minister conducted a live-in campaign tour of western Sydney, announced $1 billion for the WestConnex expressway, promised a brace of benefits for workers, pledged $1 billion for aged care staff, attacked foreign workers on 457 visas and championed ''Aussie jobs,'' and presided over strong growth in the number of people in jobs.
All for no electoral gain. The only movement in Labor's primary vote was a 1 per cent rise, which is within the poll's margin of error of 2.6 per cent. Neither offers to meet voters' needs nor appeals to their prejudices made any discernible difference. The evidence of the last month is that, as a campaigner, Gillard is ineffectual. So if Gillard can't do it for Labor, who can?
The poll tested the standing of four alternative leaders - Kevin Rudd and the three Gillard ministers most commonly touted as leadership material, Bill Shorten, Greg Combet and Bob Carr.
Asked whether they would prefer Gillard or Rudd, respondents chose Rudd by exactly two-to-one, 62 per cent to 31. His edge over Gillard on this measure has risen by 5 percentage points in the last month. Asked to choose between each of the other three and Gillard, respondents chose Gillard every time.
''The voters are saying, 'if we can't have Kevin Rudd, we'd rather have Julia Gillard over any of the alternatives','' Stirton concludes. In short, there is no realistic option of a ''third candidate'' to lead Labor.
This is fresh evidence of a long-established fact: that if Labor wants any hope of winning, it has one, and only one, leader who can perhaps turn around the losing streak.
The former president of the Liberal Party in Victoria, Michael Kroger, said he had never seen all Labor's members get on a bus and drive over a cliff together.
Labor might yet change drivers, and it will be very sharply focused on this question this week, the last practical opportunity before the budget in May. But if it can't overcome its reluctance to undo the mistake it made in deposing Rudd in 2010, it seems that Kroger will get a vivid slow-motion demonstration of mass political suicide at work.