An Essential poll showed 61% of people approved of the Labor government’s asylum-seeker policy.
An Essential poll showed 61% of people approved of the Labor government’s asylum-seeker policy. Sharyn O'Neill

Coalition voters approve of Labor's asylum seeker policy

LABOR'S hardline asylum seeker policy is winning favour among Coalition voters, research released on Monday shows.

As the election date guessing game continued, an Essential poll showed 61% of people approved of the government's policy announced earlier this month.

It involves sending asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Papua New Guinea with no chance of being resettled in Australia.

Encouragingly for Labor, almost 60% of Coalition voters said they approved of the policy, while just 14% disapproved. Three-quarters of Labor voters approved of the policy.

Overall, less than a third (28%) said they disapproved of Labor's policy, while 11% said they didn't know.

It came a day after a Galaxy poll found people considered Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to be better than Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at handling the vexed issue, 40-38%.

In another worrying sign for the Coalition, Labor almost drew level in the Essential poll on the question of which party had the best policy to deal with asylum-seekers.

A quarter of respondents nominated Labor and 26% the Coalition - a rise and fall of 12% for both sides since June 17.

Essential also asked people to rate the importance of the asylum-seeker issue, with just 7% nominating it as the most important issue and a further 28% saying it was one of the most important issues.

But interestingly, more than a third (35%) indicated it was quite important but not as important as other issues.

Like Galaxy and just about every poll taken since Mr Rudd returned to The Lodge, the Essential survey also pointed to the possibility of another nail-biting election.

With Labor's primary vote at 39% and the Coalition 44%, and using preference flows from the 2010 election, the Coalition holds a 51-49% two-party-preferred lead.

But just when that election will be held remains a mystery, with the deadline for an August 31 poll passing on Monday.

A September election now appears the most likely outcome, although Mr Rudd legally has until November 30 before Australians have to head to the polls.

September 21 is the final date an election could be held without Parliament being recalled on August 20.

It was a possibility Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese refused to rule out on Monday.

"If Parliament is still possible to be convened, because the election hasn't been called, then of course Parliament would come back on 20 August. That's the reason why you put out the timetable," Mr Albanese told ABC radio.

Mr Albanese was in Canberra as the government's expenditure review committee met to finalise a new wave of spending cuts needed to pay for the range of policy announcements made since June 26.

The rest of Cabinet was expected to be briefed about the cuts later in the day.

With Treasurer Chris Bowen expected to reveal the cuts later this week, Mr Albanese would not be drawn on the detail.

"As with all budget processes, we don't get into the business prior to the statement of ruling things in or out," he said.

"What we do say is that all of our actions will be completely consistent with the government's approach of supporting a strong economy, supporting jobs, and supporting fairness."

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