OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has crept ahead of Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister for the first time since mid-September.
The latest Essential poll, published on Monday, said 38 per cent of voters thought he made the better prime minister – one point ahead of Ms Gillard.
It was the highest rating for Mr Abbott since September and 12 points above his rating just before the 2010 election.
While voters appear to currently favour the Opposition Leader, they don’t believe Mr Abbott’s “blood pledge” to scrap the carbon tax – however the coalition says they have no doubts it will go.
It will use a double dissolution election to abolish the Labor measure, if that’s what it takes.
Focus group research, obtained by The Australian Financial Review, suggests voters are sceptical that Mr Abbott will ever get rid of the tax if he becomes prime minister.
But senior Liberal Christopher Pyne insists the coalition is committed to repealing the tax.
“If the Senate is still controlled by the Labor Green alliance (after the next election), and they refuse to roll back the carbon tax, then we will have another election,” Mr Pyne told Sky News on Monday, referring to the ability to use a double dissolution to clear out both sides of the government and force another election.
“We are telling the Australian public right up front, we will abolish the carbon tax … you couldn’t be any clearer than that.”
Mr Pyne said the next election, likely to be held in late 2013, will be a referendum on the carbon tax and not Labor’s preferred ground of workplace relations.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard pushed industrial relations and jobs to the forefront of her government’s bid for re-election in a speech to the NSW Labor conference on Sunday.
But Mr Pyne said she ignored the “elephant in the room” by not addressing the Greens and Labor alliance.
The prime minister was just “swinging in the breeze” while the half a dozen or so senior Labor figures waiting in the wings decided which one of them should take her place, he said.
Meanwhile WA Energy Minister Peter Collier says Ms Gillard has shown she is out of touch with Western Australia by telling the state to do something it has already done.
Ms Gillard on Monday accused WA Premier Colin Barnett of trying to hoodwink the public about the impact of the carbon tax, which she said would push up electricity prices by 10 per cent but would be offset by the federal government’s financial assistance.
Power bills in WA should come with an insert that explains that, she said.
Mr Barnett wasn’t taking responsibility for a 57 per cent increase in electricity prices in the state since he took power in 2008 and was instead trying to blame the federal government, she told reporters.
But Mr Collier said her comments showed she was “completely” out of touch with WA.
“Our electricity retailers have already begun distributing information directly to customers that clearly illustrates that there has been a 3.5 per cent increase in prices due to state government tariffs and a further increase of between seven and 9.13 per cent as a result of the carbon tax,” the minister said.
“The prime minister is making excuses for the fact she has introduced a tax that has her own colleagues running for cover.”
Ms Gillard could distribute information about the carbon tax “at her own cost and not at the cost of WA taxpayers”, he said. – AAP