Australians rate the Rudd Government highly on its efforts to keep recession at bay, get rid of Workchoices and reform the health system, but are critical of the school buildings component of the stimulus package and rate its management of asylum seekers very poorly, according to new polling data from Essential Research.

Asked how they rated the Government’s performance on a number of issues, voters expressed strong approval of its efforts to stimulate the economy and protect jobs (63% and 59% respectively) and find ways to reform the health system (50% approval). Replacing Workchoices also garnered more approval than disapproval (44-36%).

However, the schools building program — the subject of an extended assault by the right-wing media — received the thumbs-down from voters, with only 31% approving compared to 56% approval.  Voters also disapproved of the Government’s efforts to introduce an ETS — today delayed yet again — with 57% rating its handling of the issue very poor.

On asylum seekers, a massive 72% disapproved of the Government’s handling of the issue, including 43% who rated it “very poor” — although the Government’s repositioning on the issue is likely to have upset progressive voters as well as conservatives.

The report also undermines the belief, regularly advanced by the Left and advocates of big government, that Australians support higher taxes if they are directed toward areas of concern.  61% of Australians think we pay too much tax, a view shared right across the community, with the exception of older voters, who were much more likely to think we pay the right amount.

When asked about increased taxes for specific areas, voters had little interest.  42% supported a higher GST rate for hospital funding but 48% were opposed, although there was a marked difference between male (37-53%) and female voters (47-42%).  A higher GST for a higher pension was even less popular 38-50%, except among older voters.  There was outright opposition to raising the GST to pay for infrastructure, with 59% opposing.

Voters also believe the Government has given too much support to big business, recent immigrants and the banks, with all scoring highly on the question of whether the Government has provided levels of support to various sections of the community.

Peter Fray

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