The Turnbull government’s offer of personal income tax cuts has failed to sway voters in the first Newspoll since the budget with the Coalition failing to gain ground against Labor.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appears to have won a significant boost in popularity over Labor leader Bill Shorten.
In Sunday night’s Newspoll, the Coalition continued to trail Labor 51 to 49 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, despite last week’s release of a big-spending federal budget.
But the poll did show an eight-point improvement in Mr Turnbull’s approval rating, meaning he now leads Mr Shorten 46 to 32 per cent as preferred PM.
The result comes as the major parties prepare for a super Saturday of by-elections triggered by a reboot of the citizenship crisis last week.
Before Sunday’s opinion poll, Mr Shorten was under pressure over his handling of the issue, with three opposition MPs forced to resign and face by-elections.
Announced the day after the budget, the resignations were embarrassing for Labor but also overshadowed the government’s efforts to sell its income tax cuts.
Treasurer Scott Morrison went on the attack on Sunday, arguing Bill Shorten could not be trusted due to his handling of the citizenship crisis.
Linking the issue to the parties’ competing budget plans, Mr Morrison disputed Mr Shorten’s claim in his budget reply that Labor could spend more because it had rejected the company tax cuts.
The Treasurer described that claim as a “hoax”, saying the corporate rate was not scheduled to fall until 2024.
Mr Shorten immediately hit back, saying the government had stopped promoting its own policies because they were so unpopular.
“I just say to the government, you brought down your budget on Tuesday and you’re already bored of talking about your own propositions,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“The government know they have made a mistake, a bad mistake, with their corporate tax cuts. They know that Australians don’t want the policy and they know their policy won’t work.”
Labor has amassed an election war chest by vowing to crack down on tax concessions such as negative gearing, family trusts and franking credits.
Mr Shorten also unveiled income tax cuts for lower and middle-income earners that are nearly double the size of those offered by the Coalition.
In the opening salvo of the super Saturday by-election campaign, Mr Shorten told the Prime Minister last week:
On Sunday, he also seized on the LNP’s disendorsement of government minister Jane Prentice, claiming women were becoming a “endangered species” within the Coalition.
While Labor is focusing on fairness, the government has sought to frame the by-elections as a test of trust, with senior ministers labelling Mr Shorten “unbelievea-Bill” on Friday.
Mr Morrison repeated the line again on Sunday.
Speaker Tony Smith is this week expected to reveal a June date for contests in Mayo (South Australia), Longman (Queensland), Braddon (Tasmania), and Perth and Fremantle (Western Australia).
The Liberals confirmed they would not run candidates in Labor seats Fremantle or Perth, which the Opposition holds by only 3.3 per cent, in order to focus its resources on a separate state byelection.
Liberal senator Dean Smith labelled that decision “nonsense” at the weekend.