Turnbull Poll Doldrums Remain Despite Australian Budget Splurge

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government is still trailing in opinion polls despite a budget last week that slapped a tax on Australia’s biggest banks in order to boost spending on roads, rail and education.

While Turnbull remains the more popular leader, two polls released on Monday showed his Liberal-National coalition lagging the opposition Labor Party led by Bill Shorten by 6 percentage points.

“There is only one poll that really counts and that is on election day, but I do take notice of the polls, naturally,” Turnbull said in a Sydney radio interview on Monday. He said the surveys showed there was “strong support for the budget -- that’s really important, people think it’s fair.”

After loosening the purse-strings with a A$75 billion ($55 billion) infrastructure spend and an extra A$18.6 billion for schools, Turnbull is hoping his populist pitch can win back disaffected voters and shore up his government’s fortunes.

According to a Newspoll published by the Australian newspaper, on a two-party preferred basis 47 percent of voters would favor Turnbull’s coalition, with Labor’s support at 53 percent. The prior Newspoll showed the coalition on 48 percent. A separate Fairfax-Ipsos poll showed the gap narrowing to 47 percent for the coalition and 53 percent for Labor, from the previous outcome of 45 percent and 55 percent.

Turnbull Poll Doldrums Remain Despite Australian Budget Splurge

Hanging on to power by a slim margin in an election last July, Turnbull has struggled to shrink a deficit forecast to reach A$29.4 billion in 2018. With A$13 billion in savings measures blocked by the senate, where smaller parties hold the balance of power, this has added to pressure on Australia’s AAA credit rating.

The budget revealed a plan to raise A$6.2 billion over four years with a new tax on Australia’s five biggest banks, and an extra A$8.2 billion for disability care with a 0.5 percent increase in a healthcare levy.

More encouragingly for the government, the latest polls indicated broad support for the new tax measures, with Newspoll showing 46 percent of voters believed the budget would have a positive impact on the economy, against 20 percent saying it would have a bad effect.