Australia's PM struggles to win over voters as election nears

Prime Minister Morrison's approval rating is at -16, but he pulled off a narrow victory in 2019 amid similar poor polling and controversy. PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing a major defeat at an election due within months, according to a survey by highly-respected Newspoll, with his conservative government trailing the centre-left Labor Party 45 per cent to 55 per cent after a chaotic week in Parliament.

The result is only a minor improvement for the government compared with a January Newspoll, which saw it trailing 44 per cent to 56 per cent in its worst result in more than three years.

The new poll was conducted between Feb 9 and 12 and published in The Australian newspaper on Monday (Feb 14).

If the survey was replicated across the country at the next election, Mr Morrison would be swept from office with a loss of 21 seats, according to The Australian.

Australia's centre-right government has struggled to turn voters' attention to positive economic news after a summer of rapidly rising Covid-19 cases and supply-chain bottlenecks, which resulted in empty shelves in supermarkets across the country.

More chaos emerged last week when Australia's Parliament sat for the first time in 2022.

The government was forced to put its signature anti-religious discrimination law on hold, following a late-night parliamentary sitting where five of its lawmakers voted for opposition amendments that protected LGBTQ students from being expelled from religious schools.

There was some minor good news for the government in Monday's Newspoll result, with a slight rise in Mr Morrison's approval rating, although he still trails opposition leader Anthony Albanese.

The prime minister's net approval rating is now -16, while Mr Albanese's has dropped to -6.

Mr Morrison must call an election before the end of May under Australian law.

Still, Mr Morrison will take some heart from his surprise election win in 2019. His prospects then were largely written off amid a flurry of controversy and poor polling, only to see the Australian leader pull off a narrow victory.

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