More bad news for the government. Polling on the approval of the leaders, their frontbench teams and on who would be the better Prime Minister will come as a blow to the Liberal Party – particularly the parts on IR.

Seventy-two per cent (up 8% since early January) of electors approve of the job Kevin Rudd is doing as Opposition Leader. Approval of the job John Howard is doing is 53% (down 3%), while 42% (up 3%) disapprove (5% can’t say), a special telephone Morgan Poll taken on Wednesday and Thursday nights finds.

Rudd’s current approval rating is 33% higher than it was for previous Labor leader Kim Beazley when the same question was asked in July 2006. It’s also 8% above the highest approval rating (64% in mid-September 2004) for former opposition leader Mark Latham.

Just 17% (up 6%) of electors disapprove of the way Rudd is handling his job, while 11% (down a significant 14%) can’t say whether they approve or disapprove of Mr Rudd.

Now a higher proportion of electors (51%, up 9%) say Rudd would be a better Prime Minister than Mr Howard (44%, down 6%), while 5% (down 3%) can’t say.

As the Morgan Poll has identified for some time now, industrial relations is shaping up as the key election issue. And there’s more bad news here for the government.

A higher proportion of electors say the deputy opposition leader and opposition workplace relations spokesperson Julia Gillard (50%) would be a better Minister for Workplace Relations than the current Minister Joe Hockey (31%). Thirteen percent are undecided.

“Contrary to the early January Morgan Poll when Mr Howard was seen as the better Prime Minister, now a higher proportion of electors think Mr Rudd would make a better Prime Minister than Mr Howard,” pollster Gary Morgan says.

“Mr Rudd’s approval rating is currently 72%, up 8% since early January and 19% above John Howard’s rating, which is still a respectable 53%.

“Despite Labor’s IR policy not being met with much enthusiasm from business groups, 50% of electors think Julia Gillard would make a better Minister for Workplace Relations than current Minister Joe Hockey (31%). This is a result that bodes well for the Opposition considering IR continues to loom as the key election issue.”