Labor's silver lining has a dark cloud

PM Julia Gillard.

Despite Labor's defeat in the NT elections after governing there for 11 years, Labor Party supporters are taking heart at the modest improvement in the party’s standing in the latest Newspoll and Herald/Nielsen poll.

The latest Newspoll survey, taken for the Australian over August 18-19, showed the ALP's primary vote at 35% up from its low of 28% in mid-July, while the Liberal-National Coalition stayed at 45%.

The Herald/Nielsen poll, conducted a week later, showed the ALP's primary vote rose 2% in a month to 32%, while the Coalition’s fell 2% to 45%.

Both polls still predict that the ALP would lose a federal election if it was held now.

The Herald/Nielsen poll also found that PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were equally unpopular. Gillard and Abbott share an approval rating of 39% and a disapproval rating of 57%.

The Newspoll put Gillard’s disapproval at 60% and Abbott’s at 54%.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Phillip Coorey suggested that Labor’s carbon price/emissions trading scheme (ETS) and its harsh new refugee policy had influenced the slight shift in the ALP’s favour.

The carbon price/ETS, while still opposed by 59% (according to Nielsen), has not delivered the economic pain the Coalition was scaring the public about. Labor and the Coalition’s joint support for a return to “offshore processing” of asylum seekers had 67% support.

ALP NSW branch chief Sam Dastyari was quick to claim that Labor’s return to a reactionary refugee policy copied from the Howard government was responsible for the ALP winning the Heffron by-election in Sydney on August 25.

Last week hundreds of thousands of people watched the second series of SBS TV's Go Back Where You Came From. Once again, the show exposed the anti-refugee political discourse of the major parties for the cruel, calculated manipulation of racist prejudice and hatred that it is.

The Gillard government also rushed, sadly with the Greens endorsement, to make its carbon price/ETS even more big business-friendly and consequently an even weaker a response to the climate change crisis. All this while a record Arctic melt delivered another ominous warning about this crisis.

This is the dark, dark cloud in the ALP's sliver of a silver lining in the polls.

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