COALITION Leader Tony Abbott has urged party members, including high-profile candidate Mal Brough, not to get ahead of themselves as another poll confirms the federal opposition is in the box seat to win the next election.
Mr Brough, a former Howard government minister for indigenous affairs, was preselected on Sunday as the Liberal National Party (LNP) candidate for the federal seat of Fisher in Queensland, currently held by independent federal Speaker Peter Slipper.
A Nielsen/Fairfax poll on Monday showed the coalition has 56 per cent of the two-party vote, ahead of the Labor minority government on 44 per cent.
Responding to speculation that Mr Brough would be on the front bench of a coalition government, Mr Abbott said his existing team was doing an outstanding job and he was very happy with the line-up.
“This is going to be a very tough election,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“We saw in Queensland just how ruthless and vicious the Labor Party is going to be, so I am certainly not taking anything for granted.”
Mr Brough, who lost his former seat of Longman in 2007, outlined his policy passions on Monday, saying industrial relations and improving the lives of indigenous people should be two major priorities of a coalition government.
While he had no expectations of a ministerial role, Mr Brough said he a “bit of corporate knowledge” to contribute to a new coalition government.
The former minister said Labor had failed to address indigenous disadvantage, but he admitted the Howard government had got it wrong with its Work Choices industrial relations laws, which were rejected by the electorate.
“We need to make sure that we stay at the forefront of productivity gains. That has been declining in current years, and workplace relations has a role to play in that,” he said.
Mr Brough has been implicated in a sexual harassment suit brought against Mr Slipper by staffer James Hunter Ashby.
But Mr Abbott said Mr Brough had been “entirely upfront” about his involvement in encouraging Mr Ashby to take his allegations to court or to authorities.
He said there was nothing wrong with meeting a “party member”, even if Mr Ashby was a staffer of Mr Slipper, who resigned from the LNP last year to take the role of parliamentary speaker.
“Somehow that turns into a conspiracy in the eyes of the media, led by the muckrakers of the Labor Party,” Mr Brough said.
Still, there was some good news for Labor in the Nielsen poll.
It showed the number of people dissatisfied with its carbon tax declined by 13 percentage points to 38 per cent in the period since it began on 1 July.
“Now that the carbon price is in, people can test Tony Abbott’s deceit against their actual experience, and they are finding that Tony Abbott has been deceitful,” Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told ABC radio.