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Labor's poll shows black hole in west of Sydney

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Australian Financial Review chief political correspondent

View more articles from Phillip Coorey

NSW has become federal Labor's worst black spot, and the government would lose more than 10 seats - predominantly in western Sydney and some held by ministers - if an election was held soon.

Despite Labor's modest recovery in the national opinion polls over recent months, internal polling shows it would be wiped out in western Sydney due to a combination of factors, including lack of trust, the cost of living, asylum seekers and problems with the Labor ''brand'' exacerbated by the current Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.

''It's without a doubt our worst performing area, bar Western Australia, but there aren't as many seats there,'' a source familiar with the polling said.

The NSW Labor senator Doug Cameron admitted to the problem in western Sydney on Monday and said trust was a key issue.

''We've got lots of work to do in the western suburbs of Sydney,'' said Senator Cameron, who backed Kevin Rudd in the February leadership spill.

''I don't think our message is out there and I think we have to put that message out there loud and clear.

''I'm talking to some people out there and there are issues of trust. There are issues of being able to make sure we deal with some of the problems that are in the western suburbs of Sydney.''

The seats that could fall include McMahon, held by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, and Watson, held by Environment Minister Tony Burke.

Other seats include Parramatta, Barton, Reid, Werriwa, Fowler, Banks and Greenway, which, one source said, would be ''gone by 10 past six on election night''.

There are also concerns for the central coast seats of Dobell and Robertson, while Blaxland and Chifley, both in western Sydney, would be close calls.

One MP who did not wish to be identified confirmed the internal research but said he did not need it to tell him he was in trouble.

''They don't like us,'' he said.

Liberal Party research is picking up the same patterns and senior Liberals have been told to campaign in Labor seats held by margins of up to 10 per cent in the belief that they all are vulnerable.

The latest Fairfax/Nielsen poll shows Labor trailing the Coalition on a two-party-preferred basis by 53 per cent to 47 per cent. Labor's primary vote is 34 per cent, a significant improvement since earlier this year but still 4 percentage points shy of the 38 per cent it achieved at the federal election which produced a hung parliament.

The poll figures all but rule out an early election, giving the government another nine months to try to haul back support.

There is also ongoing concern in the Coalition about Tony Abbott, who remains vastly more unpopular than Julia Gillard.

Mr Abbott has cut back on his public appearances and is trying to do less of the attack work on Labor.

He appeared with his wife, Margie, on Monday to launch a childcare policy.

One of his senior MPs said Coalition MPs were ''more worried'' about Mr Abbott than they were two weeks ago because constituents were beginning to raise concerns about him.

''He needs to freshen up over Christmas,'' the MP said.

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