Aussie govt set for crushing defeat as support for NZ PM party surges


MELBOURNE/ WELLINGTON — Australia’s conservative government is facing a huge electoral defeat as it heads into the final sitting of parliament ahead of a national election expected in May, a widely watched poll found on Monday.

A Newspoll for The Australian newspaper showed opposition Labor retained a lead of 53 percent to 47 percent over the Liberal-National government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, unchanged from the previous poll in December, despite recent efforts to frighten voters on Labor’s tax plans.

The poll came out as parliament returns this week from its summer break, with the minority government facing defeat on two issues due on the floor as it is dependent on seven independents to vote with it.

The government is looking to block a bid, led by an independent, to allow asylum seekers in offshore camps to come to Australia for medical treatment, saying migrants could exploit it as a way into the country.

Both major parties have long backed tight border protection, looking to keep asylum seekers that arrive by boat out of the country, but Labor has indicated it might back the “Medivac” bill, which would land an embarrassing defeat of the government in parliament.

The government is also looking to stop Labor’s effort to extend this sitting of parliament to deal with recommendations released last week from a landmark inquiry into misconduct in the banking industry.

Defeat in either would not trigger an election.

Meanwhile, support for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party surged in a widely watched poll published on Monday, with the 38-year old premier seen as the most preferred person to lead the country by far.

Since coming to power in 2017, Ardern’s coalition government has faced several challenges including weak business confidence, emboldened unions and a slowing economy. However, missteps and scandals by the opposition National Party in recent months have helped it pull ahead of its rivals.

In the latest Newshub Reid Research poll, support for Ardern’s center-left Labour Party rose to 47.5 percent while the opposition party fell to 41.6 percent, a record low.

The number of respondents naming Ardern as preferred prime minister also rose by 1.6 percentage points to 41.8 percent, while only 5 percent respondents chose the opposition leader, Simon Bridges.

“This is, I believe, a reflection of us doing the work,” Ardern told Newshub.

The poll was taken from Jan. 24 to Feb. 2, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, the polling agency said.

The numbers put the ruling coalition well ahead of all its rivals before the general election that is coming up next year. — Reuters