Australian PM Gillard slumps to record poll low

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's popularity has plummeted to a record low after she announced plans for a carbon tax, a new opinion poll has shown.

The dismal findings come as Gillard is on a high-profile visit to the United States to meet US President Barack Obama and address Congress.

The Newspoll findings show that support for Gillard's Labor Party has crashed from 36 to 30 percent in the past fortnight -- a level not seen since support for Labor hit 31 percent under Paul Keating during the 1993 recession.

"In just two weeks, Ms Gillard's personal support has gone from its best since she became prime minister (50 percent) in June last year to her worst (39 percent)," The Australian newspaper added in publishing the poll.

Australian premier Julia Gillard is seen at a press conference in Sydney.

The survey of 1,202 people found that most (53 percent) opposed the carbon tax while only 42 percent supported Gillard's plan for the tax, which she plans to replace with a full carbon emissions trading scheme after several years.

Australia is the world's worst per capita polluter.

The conservative opposition, which has claimed Gillard lied about placing the price on carbon, is enjoying more solid support at 45 percent -- its highest level since March 2006, the paper said.

Speaking from Washington, Gillard refused to comment on the poll but said she knew the carbon reform debate would be "tough" and that opposition leader Tony Abbott would run a "ferocious scare campaign" on the issue.

"But it's one that I am determined to win so that we price carbon from the 1st July 2012 and transform our economy into a clean energy economy," she told reporters on Monday.

"Australians, I believe, will come to see that pricing carbon is the right way of dealing with climate change."

Abbott, whose personal approval rating climbed one percentage point to 39 percent, said Gillard's emissions trading scheme would force up the cost of living.

"It won't clean up the environment but it will clean out your wallet," he said.

Climate change has been a thorny issue in Australian politics, with former prime minister Kevin Rudd's shelving of his emissions trading scheme helping pave the way for Gillard to replace him nine months ago in a party room coup.

Questioned on who was now best to lead the Labor Party, Rudd or Gillard, the Newspoll survey found that more respondents preferred Rudd, who was leading his replacement 44 percent to 37 percent.

AFP

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