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Pain-sharing promise to haunt PM

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Shorten's poll boost

Bill Shorten opens a lead as preferred Prime Minister as the government is hammered in the opinion polls. Nielsen's John Stirton puts the poll in context.

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The broken promise that has inflicted massive and potentially irreparable damage on Tony Abbott was made after the Coalition trounced Labor at last year's election, not before.

It was that everyone would share the pain of improving the budget bottom line equally and it was repeated endlessly by Joe Hockey and Abbott as they framed their first budget.

The unequivocal verdict from a special, expanded post-budget Age-Nielsen Poll is that they have failed comprehensively in this crucial task - and will pay a very heavy price.

The Prime Minister is being punished for breaking all those unnecessary pre-poll promises, to be sure, but it is the verdict on fairness that is most telling and will be most difficult to shake.

The numbers are diabolical and will send shock waves through a Coalition party room that was showing signs of panic and ill-discipline before the budget was unveiled.

They will also embolden Labor and the minor parties in their determination to block key budget measures in the Senate.

Abbott now has ratings similar to Julia Gillard's at her lowest ebb, the Coalition's primary vote is at a seven-year low and Bill Shorten is ascendant as preferred prime minister. Rather than park their protest vote with the Greens, voters have returned to Labor.

If that weren't bad enough, many more oppose Abbott's increase in petrol tax (72 per cent) than support abolishing the carbon price (46 per cent) and abolishing the mining tax (56 per cent).

It isn't that voters don't understand the need for fiscal repair. This is shown in the fact that 49 per cent consider the budget economically responsible. It's the way the Coalition has gone about the task. That the budget is considered economically responsible by so many is the only positive for Abbott in the poll but it is undercut by another conclusion: 53 per cent think the budget is bad for the country.

The Prime Minister has compared this budget with the first of John Howard and Peter Costello in 1996, a piece of work that also broke promises to repair the budget and set the Coalition up for more than a decade in power.

But that budget rates as one of the best received in the history of polling. This one is unlikely to be beaten as the worst received - ever.

The 1996 budget was seen as fair by the voters, with 22 per cent more voters considering it fair than unfair. This one gets a net fairness rating of minus 30, with almost two out of three voters saying it fails the fairness test.

Voters, it seems, have done their sums and concluded that those on low and middle incomes, especially those with kids, are bearing the heaviest load.

They have also baulked at the logic that says slugging the most vulnerable with a $7 co-payment is the most sensible way to fund a medical research future fund.

Abbott summed up the importance of the budget and its immediate aftermath when he told Coalition MPs on Tuesday the week would be a critical one in the life of the government and the country.

In the weeks ahead, Abbott and Hockey will stand firm on the co-payment and the reintroduction of petrol excise indexation and argue they had no choice but to take the hard decisions.

But there will be pressure from within to redo the changes to family payments and soften the dole changes that say the young unemployed will wait six months before receiving assistance.

Last week, some Coalition MPs were comforted by the fact there had been so few calls from constituents to their electorate offices complaining about the budget. The explanation from this poll is clear: the anger was beyond words.

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284 comments

  • Good article points below to consider

    1. The liberal party's mantra and foundation is opportunity
    2. University education is an investment in opportunity ( now only if you can afford $120,000 for an Arts / Science degree )
    3. The liberal party don't support opportunity
    4. The liberal party has lied and betrayed us all !

    Election now let the people decide direction we want our country to take !

    Bring it on !!

    Commenter
    Ruckershill lower
    Location
    Northcote
    Date and time
    May 19, 2014, 6:48AM
    • That's amazing, which university has announced its fees for an Arts degree are increasing to $120,000? Surely this isn't just rampant speculation?

      Personally I'm disappointed with a few moves by the Liberals which will hit the poorest in society, but aside from that I'm happy that the first small steps are being taken to improve the budget position. Our rate of debt growth was astounding, and Labor had cynically put massive spending outside of the Forward Estimates which they did not even attempt to viably fund.

      It's interesting the view from The (Independent) Age. Opinion polls were always previously spoken down, but the 4 point hit in TPP now is touted as the end of a Government. It would be an appropriate time, however, for Labor to stop playing politics. The nerve to not attempt to fix the budget whilst in power, and instead to write significant unfunded spending in, so when it is cut by the Coalition there is something to scream about. There is no reason the fuel levy should not be indexed, as it was prior to 2001 when Howard froze the levy to win votes. The Coalition said it would not support Labor's Gonski long-term, and it's massive increase in funding to the States (which came from nowhere). Prior to the cuts in three years there needs to be a discussion on the structural economy, and in particular long-term sustainable revenue collection. It won't be popular, but when the motto of the left currently appears to be 'no cuts' at all, someone has to take the political hit.

      Commenter
      Mark
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 8:32AM
    • Read an article a while back that said we may be entering the age of the Opposition. Liberal or Labour, we now seem so in love with our outrage that no matter who is the incumbent that we shall all just scream until they are gone and then start screaming at the replacement party. The trust deficit works both ways and its little wonder our politicians don't trust the people that elected them.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Oz
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 8:32AM
    • It is Sir Abbott's retrograde conservatism, held so rigidly , which willl produce a spectacular loss at the next election. If the Senate blocked the budget I don't think it would affect the severity of that loss. Bring it on!

      Commenter
      rod steiger
      Location
      toukley
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 8:39AM
    • Why should we have an election? We just had one eight months ago.

      We had an election and the people of Australia voted for the Libs. The fact that the people of Australia don't like the decisions they have made since then is irrelevant. The Libs have 3 years to implement their strategies and if at the end of those 3 years we still don't like their decisions then we will have our say then.

      Commenter
      Darryl Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 8:47AM
    • The anger is beyond words, Michael.

      But 'the anger' is all Australians have left now.

      And it will grow.

      Commenter
      LIARS LIARS LIARS LIARS!!
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 8:52AM
    • rod steiger
      I support your sentiments but as a 50 year Labor voter under no circumstances will I support the Labor Party stooping to the disgraceful and despicable low of blocking supply simply to grasp power as the Liberals did in 1975.

      Commenter
      rext
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 9:06AM
    • Hockey leaves the $80b cut to the states for schools and hospitals out of his budget speech and now we discover it's the first budget since 2005 to leave out the Detailed Family Outcomes Table. Dishonest and cowardly.

      Mark:" I'm happy that the first small steps are being taken to improve the budget position."

      If you believe this you've been conned. Spending is UP over the last three (post GFC) Labor budgets and the independent PEFO (released during the caretaker period) had us returning to surplus in 2016/17 - that's EARLIER than Joe's budget which doesn't even get us back to surplus in 2017/18.

      Commenter
      Think Big
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 9:08AM
    • Australian has two higher education and future employment problems.
      1. Abbott LNP govt and Uni's will price higher education out of reach of a lot of Aussies.
      2. CEO's are already importing cheaper Uni educated workers under the guise of 457 Visas.

      Commenter
      nolongerconfused
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 9:12AM
    • We have a choice in HOW we reduce our deficit and in WHO is impacted. After telling us that we would ‘ALL sharing the heavy lifting’ there is NOTHING in the budget that isn’t aimed at the most vulnerable except a PPL 1.5% for big business that they all pass on to us as increased costs and a temp token deficit levy.

      Meanwhile there are billions being drained through corporate welfare to miners & banks and trust fund rorts, super contribution rorts, negative gearing etc. YES we had a choice – and we should vote in that direction next election!

      Commenter
      QED
      Date and time
      May 19, 2014, 9:27AM

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