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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese is now level with Scott Morrison as “better prime minister” for the first time in more than two years in Newspoll, as Labor retains its 55-45% two-party lead.

The poll, published in The Australian, comes as Morrison has struggled to ward off criticism over the federal government’s response to the devastating floods in parts of NSW and Queensland.

Asked on Sunday whether he’d been too slow to act on the floods, Morrison told Nine, “We moved as quickly as the Defence Forces and the agencies can”.

Neither side’s primary vote changed in the past fortnight – the government remains on 35% and Labor on 41%. The Greens have lost a point, and are now 8%.

In their satisfaction ratings, Morrison trails Albanese by 16 points in net terms.

Morrison’s satisfaction rating is down 2 points to 41%; dissatisfaction with him remains on 55%. He has a net satisfaction rating of minus 14. Albanese’s satisfaction rating is still 44%; dissatisfaction with him is down a point to 42%. His net satisfaction is plus 2.

A fortnight ago, Morrison led Albanese 42-40 as better prime minister. A 2 point improvement for Albanese sees them now level.

The poll of 1520 was done between Wednesday and Saturday. During the week both leaders gave major economic and national security speeches, and Morrison made two major defence announcements.

On Nine’s Sixty Minutes on Sunday, Albanese said: “I’m hungry to win. […] I won’t leave anything on the field.”

As the government fails to close the polling gap, it is under increasing pressure over the cost of living, which is shaping up as a major issue for the May election.

With the escalation of petrol prices, Morrison on Sunday was quizzed on whether the budget might see a cut in fuel excise, which is 44 cents on every litre.

He said on Nine that any change in excise would not change price fluctuations, which were driven by “things well beyond the shores of Australia”.

Asked whether Labor was urging a cut in fuel excise to ease cost of living pressures, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said: “The conflict in Ukraine will have an economic impact, but it’s dishonest of Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg to pretend the costs of essentials like petrol weren’t already skyrocketing.

“The Morrison Government shouldn’t be using Ukraine as an excuse for prices which were already rising and real wages which were already falling well before the war.

“We’ll continue to work constructively with the government and crossbench on practical and responsible ways to reduce the costs of living pressures working families face.”

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar told Sky “the cost of living is a significant issue”.

Sukkar said the budget would “take into account the fact that households are feeling the pressures of cost of living” – that would be “certainly a focus of the budget.”

He also said there was a consensus in the market there would be an interest rate rise in the second half of the year.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Anthony Albanese now level with Scott Morrison as ‘better PM’: Newspoll –