Australia PM Gillard takes poll lead

SYDNEY, Aug 14, 2010 (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard regained her lead in the polls just one week out from neck-and-neck elections Saturday, with surveys showing she had support in enough seats to win office.

Gillard, Australia's first female leader, led Tony Abbott's conservative Liberal/National coalition 53 percent to 47 percent in the latest Nielsen poll, with a four-point jump in her ruling Labor party's primary and overall vote.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (R) speaks at a media conference during a visit to a construction site in inner-west Sydney on August 13, 2010. AFP

The flame-haired former lawyer also lifted her preferred prime minister rating three points to 52 percent to one-time trainee priest Abbott's 38 percent, the survey of 1,356 voters found.

A separate Newspoll in the must-win states of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW), and Gillard's home state of Victoria, showed the prime minister was on track to scrape into government.

"Possible gains in Victoria would mean Labor could govern in its own right by the narrowest of margins," said The Australian newspaper, where the Newspoll was published.

Gillard performed strongly in the campaign's fourth week -- the period during which the surveys were conducted -- rating well on two popular TV programmes and attracting a flurry of bets on Labor to win the election.

By contrast, Abbott attracted widespread derision with a vow to scrap the government's National Broadband Network, and floundered over details of his own cheaper but slower Internet scheme when quizzed on national television.

The Nielsen poll found more people disapproved of Abbott's performance than approved (48 to 45 percent), giving him a net negative for the first time in the campaign, while Gillard's approval rating rose to 54 percent and her disapproval dropped to 36 percent.

Some 59 percent said they believed Labor would win the election to Abbott's 27 percent, and Gillard had closed the gap in seats critical to her bid for office, particularly in Sydney, where she made big spending pledges on a new rail link.

Gillard now led in NSW 51-49 and had dramatically gained ground in Queensland to trail Abbott just 49-51, according to Nielsen.

The Newspoll of 3,351 voters in marginally-held seats showed a significant swing to Gillard in Victoria, countering considerable gains by Abbott in Queensland and NSW.

"Labor's in front and is likely to win, but government is still there for the taking for Tony Abbott," The Australian said.

Critically, Gillard looked to hold onto the bellwether electorate of Eden-Monaro, just outside the capital Canberra, according to Newspoll.

Every government which has won office since 1972 has taken the seat.

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