Gladys Berejiklian would face a hung parliament if New South Wales went to the polls last week, as cabinet ministers enter an all-out public brawl that could lead to a spill motion six months out from the election.
ReachTel for Fairfax Media put the coalition 50-50 with Labor, while its primary vote plunged to 35 per cent.
The poll was taken on Thursday as Treasurer and Deputy Liberal leader Dominic Perrottet challenged Ray Williams for his safe seat of Castle Hill.
Ms Berejiklian threatened to sack Mr Williams, the multiculturalism minister, if he makes good on his pledge to trigger a spill for the deputy position on Tuesday.
It comes just weeks after the premier partly blamed federal infighting for the Wagga Wagga by-election loss.
Mr Perrottet is the member for nearby Hawkesbury, after moving from Castle Hill during a boundary redistribution at the 2015 election.
He has since been promoted to treasurer and had another two children, saying he would contest for Castle Hill to better manage his responsibilities.
“While I have always done my best to balance these commitments, looking to the future I have been concerned that I would be unable to give the people of Hawkesbury the level of representation they deserve and best discharge my service to all of NSW as treasurer.”
He lives in the Epping electorate on the other side of Castle Hill, which is about 32 times smaller than the sprawling Hawkesbury seat.
In a show of his confidence, Mr Perrottet thanked Mr Williams for his service to NSW.
“No matter the outcome he has my respect and gratitude for his dedication over many years,” he said in a statement on Friday.
Labor on Sunday said the dispute would be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), claiming Mr Williams was offered an overseas posting as trade commissioner in exchange for relinquishing Castle Hill.
“If a backroom deal has been done to allow the treasurer to oust a colleague for his seat because he doesn’t like the commute, then the public needs to know and it should be stopped,” Labor deputy leader Walt Secord said in a statement.
Mr Williams outright rejected the claim, saying it was a “politically motivated fabrication” by Labor.
He did not respond when asked if he would move ahead with the spill motion.
But he insisted on Friday that he would contest Castle Hill at the election in March.
Under no circumstance will I run away from the good people of Castle Hill.”
Mr Williams said it was a “widely shared view” within the party that it was “untenable” for Mr Perrottet to remain deputy while the preselection battle continues.
He said he had support to trigger a spill if Mr Perrottet refuses to stand down.
Mr Williams earned a primary vote of 71 per cent in the 2015 election. Mr Perrottet won Hawkesbury with 57 per cent of first preferences.
Ms Berejiklian said the recent by-election loss in Wagga Wagga – taken from the Liberal Party for the first time in six decades – was a warning not to take the community for granted.
“They’re angry and disappointed with politicians talking amongst themselves and not focusing on the community, and they also want me and my government to make sure we don’t take them and their community for granted,” she said earlier this month.
The seat was lost to independent Joe McGirr with an almost 30 per cent swing against the Liberal Party.
The poor polling published on Sunday also reflected the recent turmoil in the federal party.
When asked if the leadership spill had changed their view of the state wing of the Liberals, 40.4 per cent said ‘yes’.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley on Friday said the infighting showed the Liberals learned nothing from the toppling of Malcolm Turnbull.
“The Liberal Party civil war has moved from the federal parliament to the NSW parliament and good government has been totally ignored.”
Mr Foley said the dispute amounted to a “complete failure of leadership” from Ms Berejiklian.