Support for Australia’s ruling Labor Party has plunged to its lowest level in eight years, a poll showed Tuesday, as the government battles to introduce a carbon tax which has divided voters.
The centre-left party led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard is trailing 45 percent to 55 percent to a conservative opposition which has pledged to overturn the proposed tax to combat carbon pollution if elected.
“Labor’s base has shrunk,” The Australian said in a commentary to the Newspoll published in the newspaper, saying the party’s popularity had fallen since the August 21 election.
The poll of 1,133 voters conducted over the weekend found that support for Labor had fallen between late March and early April at the same time as the opposition’s popularity had risen.
The result shows support for Labor is at the same level it was in 2003 when the party was in opposition, The Australian said.
The poll comes after the government announced it would push for a tax on carbon emissions as it seeks to act on climate change.
Amid concerns the tax will add to household costs, thousands have attended rallies against the new levy, including one attended by opposition leader Tony Abbott in which placards accused the prime minister of being a “liar”.
Gillard promised not to introduce a carbon tax while campaigning for last year’s elections, but within six months of forming a fragile, one-seat majority in parliament after deadlocked polls, she backtracked on the pledge.
Australian politicians have struggled with how to deal with climate change, with the issue provoking furious debate within both major parties and leading to Gillard’s ousting of former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd in a party coup.
Rudd admitted late Monday that his decision to shelve a carbon emissions trading scheme, which he had repeatedly failed to get through parliament, was a mistake.
Rudd, who had called climate change the greatest moral challenge of the time, said he had been trying to find a middle way after some in the party wanted to kill his proposal altogether.
“The judgement I made then was wrong,” he told ABC television.