“Build costs to rise over Rudd ‘risk’,” shouts The Australian’s headline today.

“The costs of building skyscrapers and apartment blocks are set to rise because of fears that Labor’s workplace relations policies would trigger a new wave of industrial unrest…”

But there in the corner is the much anticipated post-Budget Newspoll. ” Most popular budget on record, no bounce“. Not that it exactly leaps out at you.

Conducting opinion polls isn’t cheap. Mumble Politics‘ Peter Brent has observed:

Newspoll is published more or less fortnightly in The Australian . This regularity, its position in the country’s sole national broadsheet, and that paper’s muscular assertiveness, give it perceived authoritativeness amongst the political class. Even writers for rival Fairfax papers often defer to it over their own surveys.

So it must be galling to bury a poll.

Newspoll, you see, just isn’t good for the Government. Labor’s primary vote is up two points to 50%. The Coalition’s is down one point to 36%. The two-party-preferred splits Labor’s way 59 to 41%.

All this, even 60% of voters think the Budget is good for the economy and only 12% believed it will be bad.

Peter Costello says it will take a couple of months before the effect of the Budget is reflected in the opinion polls.

He might be right, but the polls simply have not moved despite the Budget. Today’s Newspoll is well within the margin of error. That’s very bad news for the Government.

Viewed through the prism of the polls, the PM’s recent move onto the Labor turf of education not only looks reactive, but a risky step onto what has been unstable ground for the Coalition.

In contrast, Kevin Rudd is appearing as nimble as Howard used to be. In the public eye, the polls would suggest, he has skipped away from an IR imbroglio.

The key word in the Opposition Leader’s office at the moment is momentum — and they certainly seem to have it, despite a few missteps.

Rudd is still playing down his chances, with his ’51 to 49%’ chance of success line.

But what’s becoming clearer is this — whether the election is a close win or a wipeout for the Government, there will still be plenty of blood on the floor of the party room. Either way, John Howard’s gamble will have failed.

Matters are likely to be made worse because many of the Coalition MPs who are returned won’t be that keen on sticking around — particularly if the Liberals lose.

Tough times are ahead for the Coalition MPs who will be left to pick up the pieces.

* This headline was shamelessly stolen from the Skeletal Remains blog.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey