Flailing Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard vows to battle on

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed on Monday not to buckle after a fresh poll showed her badly lagging in an election year, insisting she was "a hard bastard" who could take the pressure.

Centre-left Labor leader Gillard has called an election for September 14 but would be routed by conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott if the vote was held today, the poll showed.

On a two-party basis, excluding minor parties, a Fairfax Media/Nielsen poll showed Labor was favoured by 44 per cent of the 1,400 people contacted between March 14 and 16, with the opposition on 56 per cent.

Abbott is also the preferred prime minister on 49 per cent compared to 43 per cent for Gillard, but in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald she vowed to battle on.

"If I haven't flinched yet, why would I flinch now?" said the country's first woman prime minister, describing opinion polls as "froth and bubble stuff".

"I'll just keep getting on with it and dealing with the issues that actually matter and all of this kind of side commentary can do whatever it does. It's not going to deter me or distract me."

Gillard has consistently been behind in the polls since calling the election in January, with speculation rife that she could be replaced by former leader Kevin Rudd.

Rudd, who led Labor to a landslide election victory in 2007 which ended more than a decade of conservative rule, remains popular and Monday's poll showed 62 percent preferred him to lead Labor compared to Gillard's 31 per cent.

But Gillard dismissed any prospect of being "tapped on the shoulder" by senior ministers, saying: "It just won't happen. (It's) much speculated upon and just won't happen."

In the Herald interview, Gillard dwelled on how much harder it was working as a politician under the scrutiny of the 24/7 news cycle, but said she was tough enough to survive.

"It's harder than it used to be," she said, pointing to the insatiable demand for news spawning more "drama, more schlock, more horror" and less depth.

"You've got to be a pretty hard bastard to get it done."

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