Australian leadership shambles condemned by voters: poll

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard along with deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan (R) addresses a press conference in Canberra On March 21, 2013. AFP PHOTO / str

SYDNEY: An aborted Labor party leadership coup has badly tainted the standing of the Australian prime minister's office with most voters also seeing Julia Gillard as a "lame duck" leader, a poll showed Sunday, six months ahead of a general election.

The first opinion poll since Gillard called a shock leadership ballot Thursday to counter rising tensions within the party also said the majority of those questioned would prefer Kevin Rudd in charge.

After weeks of rampant speculation Rudd opted out of challenging Gillard for the party leadership just minutes before the vote was held, realising he did not have the political numbers to unseat her.

Gillard was re-elected unopposed but significant damage has been done to the highest office in the country, the poll of 1,005 voters for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph showed.

Asked if the public in-fighting had damaged the prime minister's office, 71 percent said it had, while 60 percent believed Gillard was now a "lame duck" leader just six months out from September national elections.

Most felt Labor had made the wrong decision in rejecting Rudd as leader, with 53 percent of those surveyed backing the former prime minister against 32 percent who preferred Gillard.

The poll also showed Labor trailing on 32 percent to the conservative opposition's 47 percent in the primary vote, which excludes the impact of minor parties.

Voters were divided on whether an early election was needed, with 44 percent wanting it to be held now and 47 percent happy to wait until September 14.

In an editorial, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Telegraph lashed out at the "utter disrespect" Labor had for the prime minister's office.

"Last week's leadership coup was a naked display of self-interest that had nothing to do with good government, leadership or what's best for the future of this country," it said.

Gillard is expected to announce a cabinet shake-up as early as Monday after losing four senior ministers who backed Rudd.

For his part, Rudd has pledged to never challenge for the leadership again and said Saturday it was vitally important to now "bind up the wounds".





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