Julia Gillard survives tough year, but polls defeat looms
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In February, Gillard called a snap leadership vote, defeating Kevin Rudd, the man she overthrew in June 2010, by 71 votes to 31 in a ballot she hoped would stop Rudd supporters from undermining her.
In October, Gillard's parliamentary speaker, Peter Slipper, was forced to quit his job over a long-running sexual harassment case and after the release of a series of offensive text messages.
Gillard's Labor Party was also forced to suspend a lawmaker who is accused of spending union money on prostitutes, lavish travel and meals before he was elected to parliament. Despite the political setbacks, Gillard has managed to maintain a one-seat majority in parliament, with support from a string of independents and the Greens. In recent months, polls have shown a resurgence of support for Gillard's Labor, although the party was still behind the opposition and the comeback had stalled as the union slush fund story has dominated media coverage. The respected Newspoll on Monday found Gillard was within striking distance of the opposition, trailing by only two percentage points in late November, compared with a 10-point gap in September.
But the government is unpopular in the battleground of Western Sydney, where polling shows Gillard could lose up to 10 seats at the next election, meaning she would be swept from office.
Monash University political analyst Nick Economou said the government had gained support in recent months by successfully distancing itself from the Greens, and from the muted public reaction to the carbon tax, which began in July. "They've been able to legislate, they've been able to get things through. The problem is the government has been giving the impression that it is in crisis all the time," Economou told Reuters.
"I still expect them to be defeated pretty convincingly at the next federal election."
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