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Australia scandal backfires on opposition chief

Australia’s opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has suffered a huge drop in popularity since his bungled attempt to force Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to resign, opinion polls showed on Monday.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2009 10:50 IST

Australia’s opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has suffered a huge drop in popularity since his bungled attempt to force Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to resign, opinion polls showed on Monday.

A Newspoll survey conducted for The Australian newspaper showed Turnbull’s approval rating plunging 19 percent to 25 percent in the past fortnight - the biggest fall for an opposition leader in the survey’s 25-year history.

Separate polls by Herald/Nielsen and Galaxy gave similar results, a week after Turnbull was forced to retract claims that Rudd misled parliament when a key email turned out to be a fake.

The Newspoll survey put Rudd’s lead over Turnbull at a whopping 47 points with some experts tipping the prime minister to call snap polls, just 19 months after taking office.

“In a few short days, Malcolm Turnbull has gone from Liberal star and parliamentary prosecutor to a man living on borrowed political time,” columnist Dennis Shanahan wrote in The Australian.

Turnbull had called forcefully for Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan to quit over claims they helped a car dealer friend seeking government funds, and then lied about it.

But his comments backfired spectacularly when it was revealed that the email at the heart of his argument had been forged by an unknown Treasury official.

Rudd declined to comment on the latest polls but took a veiled swipe at Turnbull, a millionaire former banker and lawyer who became leader of the conservative Liberal Party last September.

“I think the Australian people are just tired of the politics of fear and smear,” he told reporters on Monday.