CANBERRA (Reuters) - Support for Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his government’s carbon emissions trading plan is slipping ahead of elections this year, but Rudd’s Labor remains clearly ahead, a poll showed on Monday.
The result adds political pressure on Rudd to change his centrepiece carbon trade plan, which faces near certain defeat for a third time when a vote is taken in parliament’s Senate.
The Nielsen poll in the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers found 45 percent support for a rival policy proposed by Rudd’s conservative opponents, while 39 percent backed Rudd’s plan to force 1,000 major companies to pay to pollute.
Overall support for a carbon trade scheme dropped 10 points to 56 percent, while opposition to emissions trading rose four points to 29 percent.
The results reflect similar fall in public support in Britain after the failure of December’s global climate conference in Denmark to set firm targets to curb greenhouse gases, blamed for global warming.
A poll by the BBC found 25 percent of adults did not believe in global warming, a 10-point increase since November, while those who believe climate change was real fell from 83 percent to 75 percent.
The Australian government stood by its policy, which will force big polluters to buy permits for every tonne of carbon they emit, and said it would not be making any changes.
“Our policy is complex but it is a worthy policy and the prime minister has indicated we have to go out there and explain it, and we are doing that,” Treasurer Wayne Swan told Australian radio.
Rudd and Australia’s opposition leader Tony Abbott have promised to cut carbon emissions by five percent by 2020 from 2000 levels, but Abbott has ruled out carbon trading and will instead use financial incentives to encourage business to clean up pollution.
The government has said Abbott’s plan will see emissions increase 13 percent by 2020, rather than fall.
Rudd’s rating as preferred prime minister fell nine points to 58 percent since the last poll, taken before the Copenhagen climate summit, while support for Abbott was up 10 points at 31 percent.
The poll showed support for the government in the two-party preferred terms which decide elections at 54 percent, ahead of the 46 percent for the conservatives, giving Rudd a comfortable eight-point buffer.
Australia’s financial market have offered little reaction to the opposition’s recent poll gains as policy differences between the two sides are not deemed major enough to move markets.
Rudd will most likely call an election in the second half of 2010, and is strongly tipped to govern for another three years on the back of a growing economy that has emerged largely unscathed from the global financial crisis.
Labor won in 2007 with 52.7 percent of the vote against 47.3 for the conservatives.
Reporting by James Grubel and Rob Taylor; Editing by David Fogarty