Labor says it is understandable the polls are narrowing as the federal government ramps up a “scare campaign” over national security and asylum seekers.
The latest Ipsos poll, conducted for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, has Labor leading the coalition 51-49 on a two-party preferred, down from 54 per cent to 46 per cent in December.
Labor’s primary vote has fallen from 37 to 33 per cent over two months, while the coalition’s rose 36 to 38 per cent in the poll of 1200 voters.
A separate YouGov Galaxy poll of 810 Queenslanders has Labor ahead 52-48 in the state on a two-party preferred basis, although two in five of those polled say they are less likely to vote for the Labor because Bill Shorten is the leader.
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week ramped up the rhetoric on border protection following a historic loss in parliament on legislation making it easier for refugees to get medical transfers to Australia.
“When you have a prime minister running a scare campaign it will have impact,” Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told the Nine Network on Monday.
“We need to be clear to people the changes we made last week apply to a few hundred people on Manus Island and Nauru. This is not a significant change when it comes to our borders.”
Former prime minister Tony Abbott said the tougher message from the government was a winning strategy.
“Governments that have conviction and character can come back and what we have seen from the prime minister and ministers over the last few months is conviction and character, and I think we’ll see more of that,” he told 2GB radio.
He said the government had not been “great at politics”, but had been “competent”.
Coalition MPs are not expected to oppose a motion calling for a royal commission into the abuse of people with a disability when it comes to the lower house on Monday afternoon.
However, the government is still taking advice on how such an inquiry would operate if it went ahead.
Senate estimates hearings have begun, with evidence that two senior ministers – Michaelia Cash and Michael Keenan – refused to provide witness statements to a police investigation into raids on Australian Workers’ Union offices.
And federal police revealed not being aware of footballer Hakeem al-Araibi’s refugee status until after his detention in Thailand.
It is the final parliamentary sitting week before the April 2 budget.