- Federal politics: full coverage
- Abbott bounces back as union woes hit Shorten
- Michael Gordon: Cards falling for Abbott, but it's early days
Australia is showing some appreciation for the Abbott government for the first time. But, curiously, the Prime Minister is getting no personal credit, the latest Fairfax Nielsen poll shows.
At the same, voters are turning away from Labor. But in this case, the leader can take full responsibility: Bill Shorten has been slammed.
After winning the election last September, the Abbott government had a cheerless five months in public support. Apparently adrift in search of a clear purpose, its poll support fell. That trend has only now started to reverse.
''Over the past week, the government's polling has started to move up for the first time,'' says the Fairfax pollster, Nielsen's John Stirton, looking across the results of all survey firms.
The Coalition's share of the vote has risen by 4 percentage points to give it a lead of 52 to 48 over Labor, on the two-party preferred measure.
But the Prime Minister has enjoyed no such boost. Abbott's approval rating fell a touch; his net approval is minus 2 per cent. And his standing as preferred prime minister was unchanged. How can the people re-rate the government, but not the man leading it?
Stirton offers two thoughts: ''Tony Abbott has always struggled with his approval numbers. They are usually negative, but not always, and they don't tend to move much.'' Most people formed a firm opinion of Abbott long ago.
Stirton's second thought: ''The government has started taking some big decisions, some hard decisions, that people notice,'' notably to refuse public subsidies to SPC Ardmona and the car manufacturers. ''There's just more of a consistency to what they are doing and saying and that's coming from the Treasurer, which he pithily summarised as 'the end of the age of entitlement'.''
A poll by Essential Media last week found that only 36 per cent of voters approved of continuing government subsidies to the car sector, with 47 per cent opposed.
So it may be that Joe Hockey is the one winning kudos for the government.
For Labor, it's straightforward. Shorten has sided decisively with the trade unions against the broader national interest and the people are responding. He tried to deflect the royal commission into union corruption. Only 23 per cent of voters are sympathetic to this view. And he argues for continued subsidies to failing companies, at least partly to protect the unions involved.
Hockey's hallmark is ending entitlement; Shorten is all about protecting entitlement, and the entitlement of the unions in particular.
This poll suggests that the government is winning this argument.
Peter Hartcher is the political editor and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He is a Gold Walkley award winner, a former foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Washington, and a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.
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