March 26, 2018 / 3:41 AM / 6 months ago

Australian PM under pressure after government loses 29th straight opinion poll

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government lost its 29th straight Newspoll on Monday, putting the Australian leader in an increasingly precarious position as his party attempts to push planned corporate tax cuts through parliament.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks at the start of the Leaders' Plenary session during the one-off summit of 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney, Australia, March 18, 2018. Mark Metcalfe/Pool via REUTERS

The result of the widely watched poll leaves Turnbull just one poll away from a symbolically significant 30th poll loss, which he cited as one of his reasons for toppling former leader Tony Abbott in a party room spill in September 2015.

In the face of the popularity slump, Turnbull has ruled out calling an early election. The next election is due in 2019.

Turnbull brushed off questions about the latest poll, saying he was focused on creating more jobs and reducing taxes. The government is trying to pass legislation to lower the tax rate to 25 percent from 30 percent on companies with a turnover of more than A$50 million ($40 million).

“We are seeking to reduce business taxes to allow Australian businesses to invest and compete and create even more great jobs,” Turnbull told reporters.

Turnbull has been buffeted by a series of damaging events in recent months, including revelations of widespread misconduct in the country’s banking sector that have led to a formal investigation and a dual citizenship debacle that temporarily cost the government its one-seat parliamentary majority.

The year began with Turnbull’s deputy, Barnaby Joyce, forced out of the Cabinet over a sex scandal that also opened a rift with junior coalition partner The Nationals.

The latest Newspoll, published in The Australian newspaper on Monday, shows the Liberal-National coalition trailing the opposition Labor Party 47-53 on a two-party preferred basis.

Labor’s primary vote, which has climbed to 39 percent, is now as high as it was before Turnbull ousted Abbott and, worryingly for Turnbull, it comes despite the opposition’s recently announced and widely unpopular plan to axe tax credit refunds for some retirees.

The coalition is trying desperately to win over the final two crossbenchers it needs to push its planned corporate tax cut through parliament in the last sitting days before the Easter break.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has warned that the proposed cuts could scuttle plans to get the national budget back into surplus by 2021.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government would not risk his fiscal position in any negotiations with crossbenchers for votes in favor of the legislation.

“We don’t put the AAA credit rating at risk, we are returning the budget to balance, it’s projected to be there in 2021, we’ve held to that, we’ll continue to hold to that,” he told reporters.

Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by Michael Perry

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