* Labor tally dips more than 7 pct in two Australian states
* Conservatives enjoy revival ahead of national elections
* Minister predicts limited impact on national standing
By James Grubel
CANBERRA, March 21 Australian Prime Minster
Kevin Rudd's ruling Labor Party suffered a large loss of
support in weekend elections in Australia's two smallest
states, in a result which could disrupt his plans for sweeping
Voter support dropped more than 7 percent for longstanding
Labor governments in South Australia and Tasmania, signalling a
revival for the conservative Liberal Party ahead of national
elections, due in late 2010.
If the shift away from Labor was replicated across the
country at a national election, Rudd would be swept from power.
However, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said local issues
dominated the two state elections, where voters turned against
long serving governments. In contrast, Rudd's national
government has been in office only two years and four months.
"I don't think there's much in the way of federal
implications," Tanner told Australian television.
"Inevitably, governments that are long-term governments
lose a bit of skin along the way. But we'll just see what the
final details are and obviously we always learn lessons from
Rudd remains firm favourite to win a second term in office
at elections due later this year.
The Reuters Poll Trend shows he holds a 7.2 percent lead
over the opposition on the crucial two-party vote, once minor
party votes are distributed under Australia's complex
preferential electoral system.[ID:nSGE62G01L]
Australians regularly vote for different parties at
national elections and state elections, where local issues can
dominate, making it difficult to interpret how state results
might translate to the national arena.
OPPOSITION LIBERALS LIKELY TO GOVERN TASMANIA
Rudd's poll ratings and support for his climate policies
have been falling since December after the Liberal Party
elected a new leader, and his carbon trade plan was rejected a
second time in a hostile parliamentary upper house.
In Tasmania, where Labor has governed for 12 years, the
Liberals are likely to take office with support from Greens,
who won five seats and a record 21 percent of the vote.
Rudd has unveiled a $45 billion plan to take control of
struggling state-run public hospitals. But he needs agreement
from all six states and two territories and a Liberal
government in Tasmania could complicate efforts to implement
Rudd holds all five Tasmanian state seats in the national
parliament, but four of those seats could be in jeopardy if the
state swing away from Labor was replicated at a federal level.
In South Australia, where Labor has ruled for eight years,
Premier Mike Rann will retain power despite the strong shift
towards the Liberal Party.
Rann's campaign was disrupted by scandal after a former
parliament house waitress claimed she had an affair with the
premier. Rann denied the relationship, which happened before he
was married, was anything more than a friendship.
South Australia is home to 11 seats in the 150-seat
national parliament, and Rudd's Labor holds six. If the swing
away from Labor was replicated at a national election, Rudd
could lose three seats.
For a full table of Poll Trend results, click on
For a Q+A on whether Rudd could lose elections, click on
For the latest political analysis of election timing, click on