Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull's popularity slumps as government fractures emerge

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull's (above) lead as preferred prime minister over opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten fell 4 percentage points in the past two weeks, according to a Newspoll for The Australian newspaper.
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull's (above) lead as preferred prime minister over opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten fell 4 percentage points in the past two weeks, according to a Newspoll for The Australian newspaper. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The personal approval rating of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fell to its lowest level in more than four months, a widely watched poll showed on Monday (Aug 13), adding pressure on Mr Turnbull as he seeks to unite a fractured government.

A Newspoll for The Australian newspaper showed that Mr Turnbull's lead as preferred prime minister over opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten fell 4 percentage points in the past two weeks, a result that weakens his hand ahead of a critical meeting of the centre-right government on Tuesday.

Mr Turnbull's personal popularity has so far safeguarded his position in a country where leadership changes have become common in recent years when polls have shown the government on course for an election defeat.

"Turnbull is again on the back foot. If he can't regain the momentum and get through his centrepiece policies, those leadership questions will again emerge," said political science professor Haydon Manning of Flinders University in South Australia state.

Mr Turnbull's Liberal-National coalition government still trails Labor, the Newspoll opinion poll showed, although the margin was unchanged at 49-51.

Australia's government will convene on Tuesday after a six-week recess, the first time it will meet since a series of by-election defeats late last month.

Those results fuelled pressure on Mr Turnbull to resolve more than a decade of battles over climate and energy policies and spur investment in new power supply, as well as to provide clarity over whether he intends to pursue corporate tax cuts despite polls showing voters opposing them.

The Prime Minister's coalition failed to win any of the five by-elections in July, defeats widely seen as an indication that he faces an uphill task to be re-elected at a national poll due by May 2019.