A bold gamble by Kevin Rudd to reclaim the leadership of Australia and launch national elections appears to be failing, with a poll on Monday showing his centre-left Labor government is headed for a heavy defeat in a September ballot.
A Newspoll in the Australian newspaper showed opposition leader Tony Abbott's conservative coalition was ahead of Rudd's Labor Party by 54 percent to 46 at the midpoint of the five-week campaign, a two-point increase in a fortnight.
Rudd, a former diplomat, ousted Julia Gillard as leader in June in a bold party-room coup to revive the government's public support following a prolonged poll slump under Gillard.
The Newspoll showed Rudd had suffered a big reversal in his own popularity as well as his party's.
Voter dissatisfaction with Rudd was at a record 54 percent after he launched new advertising that accused the conservatives of risking a recession with planned spending cuts.
"You may say it's negative. But we say it's putting the spotlight on what Australia would be like if Mr Abbott became prime minister," Rudd told Australian television.
The polling suggests a four-point swing away from Labor's minority government in the Sept. 7 vote, which would allow the conservatives to govern in their own right with around 89 seats in the 150-seat lower house. Labor would lose around 14 seats.
Abbott's centre-right coalition and Rudd's Labor both have put management of the $1.5 trillion economy - the world's 12th largest - at the centre of their campaigns, along with promises to curb an influx of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
Internal Labor polling shows that, with voters worried about immigration and competition for jobs in a slowing economy forecast to grow at 2.5 percent this fiscal year, at least 10 seats hang in the balance.
Several of those seats are held by Labor ministers.
Abbott has promised to cut the 30 percent company tax rate if he wins to help boost business confidence while the economy retreats from a China-fuelled mining boom, and to scrap a controversial mining profits tax and price on carbon emissions.
"The contemporary Labor Party are hopeless at government, but they are brilliant at low politics. This election is going to be a struggle," Abbott said on Monday.
Australia's company tax rate sits about six percentage points above the average of most developed economies. Business groups have been urging a reduction to help boost international competitiveness and investment.