Australia's opposition party leading opinion polls

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am

Updated at 11.27am:
Australia's main opposition party has surged ahead of the ruling coalition in an opinion poll released on Tuesday, after tens of thousands of protesters rallied against a new labour law that they say erodes job security.

Support among voters for the opposition centre-left Labor Party rose four percentage points to 53 per cent over two weeks, according to the respected Newspoll published in The Australian.

Prime Minister John Howard's ruling centre-right coalition slipped from 51 per cent to 47 per cent over the same period, the poll showed.

The latest random telephone poll of 1,152 voters nationwide, which has a 3 percentage point margin of error, was conducted at the weekend after nationwide rallies against labour law reforms were held on June 28.

The new measures, passed by the parliament three months ago, allow bosses to change the conditions on which staff are employed and reduce legal restrictions on bosses who fire staff.

The government has dismissed the public outcry as a fear campaign generated by the trade union movement.

Opposition lawmaker Wayne Swan said the poll showed Labor was right to vow to tear up the new laws if it wins government at elections next year.

'There's no doubt this issue is seriously eroding the confidence of middle and low income families,' Mr Swan said.

Mr Howard said on Tuesday his government would forge ahead with the reforms for the good of the economy.

He would not say whether he thought the reforms would cost his coalition government at the next elections.

'The Labor Party has never been a pushover in federal elections so that's why I've been saying for a year or more now that we must prepare for a very tough fight,' Howard told Perth radio 6PR.

Mr Howard has declined to say if he will contest the election, 11 years after he first became prime minister.