Australia PM Gillard heading for crushing election defeat: Poll

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's Labor government is heading for a crushing defeat in this year's election, a poll showed on Tuesday as a senior minister blamed the party's bloodletting for driving voters to the opposition.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's popularity has crashed after an "appalling" week in which a veteran cabinet minister called for ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd to challenge her leadership.

Mr Rudd refused and Ms Gillard retained power but four ministers who backed the challenge quit or were sacked, forcing a second cabinet reshuffle in as many months.

The Newspoll survey taken after the farcical episode shows Labor were first choice for only 30 per cent of voters, while satisfaction with Ms Gillard dived from 32 per cent two weeks ago to 26 per cent - its lowest level in 19 months.

"I don't comment on opinion polls but I don't need a poll to tell me that last week the Labor Party had an appalling week," Ms Gillard told broadcaster ABC.

"When we present to the Australian people self-indulgently talking about ourselves there are consequences."

The poll, published in The Australian, found that when asked who would make the better prime minister, opinion swung towards Liberal Party opposition leader Tony Abbott who was ahead on 43 per cent, compared to 35 per cent for Ms Gillard.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr, forced to publicly declare his loyalty to Ms Gillard last week after a report said he had lost confidence in her, said the disunity within Labor was hurting the party.

"I think there's nothing at all surprising in all this but it is a challenge to all our colleagues to put the events of the past week thoroughly behind us and to simply have a conversation with the Australian people who, I believe, don't want an Abbott government," he told Sky News.

"They don't, but they are being driven into the Liberal camp and into Abbott's column by Labor's behaviour."

The botched Rudd coup against Ms Gillard has seen some Labor figures criticise the government's direction just six months ahead of the September 14 election.

The Newspoll survey of 1,136 voters found the conservative Liberal/National opposition coalition would easily win the election, securing 58 per cent of the vote compared to Labor's 42 per cent once the preferences of minor parties were distributed.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.