Australian leadership shambles condemned by voters: poll

SYDNEY (AFP) - 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 on Sunday, six months ahead of a general election.

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

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

Ms 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 per cent said it had, while 60 per cent believed Ms 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 Mr Rudd as leader, with 53 per cent of those surveyed backing the former prime minister against 32 per cent who preferred Ms Gillard.

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

Voters were divided on whether an early election was needed, with 44 per cent wanting it to be held now and 47 per cent 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.

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

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