SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Saturday said he believed the upcoming election would be closer than polls suggest, after a survey showed the government faced a wipeout in crucial seats.
The Labor leader is trailing conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott ahead of September 7 national polls, and a Newspoll published in The Weekend Australian revealed he would likely lose key marginal seats in New South Wales and Victoria.
"I believe that the Australian people in the course of the last week and 10 days of this campaign, will begin to lock on to their choices," Mr Rudd said on Saturday as he campaigned in the northern city of Darwin.
"I've seen a range of polls both public and private which suggest to me this election will end up a little closer than people think."
The polling of 2,700 people in electorates in Labor's traditional heartland of western Sydney as well as on the New South Wales coast and in three marginal electorates in Victoria all put Labor behind Mr Abbott's Liberal/National coalition.
In the five western Sydney electorates Mr Abbott's coalition was ahead on 57 per cent to Labor's 43 per cent once minor parties were stripped out, and in the other five NSW seats polled and the Victoria seats it was ahead on 53 per cent to 47 per cent.
The Newspoll results indicated that the Liberal/National coalition could add an extra 20 to 26 seats to the more than 70 they already hold in the 150-seat lower House of Representatives, giving them a clear majority, The Weekend Australian said.
But Mr Abbott, campaigning in Queensland, downplayed the polling.
"This is a very close election," Mr Abbott said, adding that he expected the polls to tighten ahead of the vote next weekend.
"People should not think for a second that they can risk voting for their old mate the independent, their old mate the celebrity, their old mate the Labor candidate, because if you do that you're likely to end up with another bad Labor/Green government."
Australians voted Labor into government in a landslide in 2007, but it only scraped back into power at the 2010 election after the vote resulted in a hung parliament, forcing then Labor leader Julia Gillard to cobble together a majority with the help of several independents and a Greens MP.
"Ultimately elections are about choices," Mr Rudd said Saturday.
"I respect the wisdom of the Australian people to make their judgments in a seasoned and proper way and I'm sure they will do so."