CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's honeymoon with voters is becoming entrenched, with a poll showing he is widening the margin over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as the preferred Australian leader.
Turnbull, who took power in a ballot of his Liberal Party lawmakers 10 weeks ago, leads Shorten as the preferred prime minister by 64 per cent to 15 per cent, up from a 43-point margin two weeks ago, according to the Newspoll published in The Australian on Tuesday (Nov 24). His Liberal-National coalition remains ahead on 53 per cent to Labor's 47 per cent and is on track to win elections due by the end of next year.
Voters are embracing Turnbull's inclusive and forward- looking brand of politics after turning off from his predecessor Tony Abbott, whose combative style, spending cuts and gaffes saw the government's popularity slump.
While the new leader faces challenges in forming a cohesive economic policy, political analyst John Warhurst said the coalition's lead appeared to be taking root.
"Turnbull's popularity among voters isn't a flash in the pan and should continue in the longer term," said Warhurst, of the Australian National University in Canberra. "His government is now in a very strong position."
Former banker Turnbull, 61, returned at the weekend from his first major international tour and meetings with leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid heightened safety concerns in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. The prime minister is due to deliver a speech on national security Tuesday (Nov 24).
Turnbull's rise bolstered business and consumer confidence in the world's 12th-largest economy, which has been buffeted by slowing demand for its resources from China, its largest trading partner. He is paving the way for changes to the tax system, including potentially increasing a levy on goods and services to help fund cuts to income and company taxes.
Support for Shorten, which dropped 3 points from the previous poll, is the lowest of any Labor leader in 12 years. The poll of 1,573 voters, conducted Nov 19-22, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The former union leader has struggled for momentum since Turnbull's rise, with his unpopularity among voters raising questions on whether he remains leader at the election.
"Shorten's colleagues will certainly be getting worried," Warhurst said. "In his favor to remaining leader, there's no obvious alternative."