Senior Labor figures are rallying to find new ways to boost support for the governing party, as a new poll shows the federal coalition retaining a landslide-winning lead.
The latest Newspoll puts the coalition on 56 per cent of the two-party vote and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott overtaking Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister 39-36.
The poll emerged as Ms Gillard continued a week-long tour of Queensland to highlight health and education policies and sell Labor’s carbon pricing scheme, and Mr Abbott visited Perth to talk up the impact of the carbon tax on jobs and investment.
In a bid to meet the prime minister’s target of 8000 new ALP members this year and boost party morale, the NSW branch this weekend at its annual conference is to look at introducing direct election of parliamentary leaders.
Grassroots members are involved in selecting labour-based party leaders in Britain, France and Canada, but in the ALP leaders are elected by parliamentary caucuses.
The concept of state and federal parliamentary leaders elected by the rank and file has the backing of NSW ALP leader John Robertson and party secretary Sam Dastyari, but there is division over how it should be progressed.
One of the branches promoting the motion, Paddington in inner-city Sydney, said the move also would empower members “at a time of crisis in party membership” as well as free the leader from factional shackles.
The ALP has also launched its first national survey of members – a recommendation of a review led by ALP stalwarts Steve Bracks, John Faulkner and Bob Carr following the 2010 federal election.
Meanwhile, the debate over the role of the Australian Greens in dragging down Labor’s standing continued, with the minor party’s leader Christine Milne saying the “crisis” in the ALP was of its own making.
Many Labor figures are angry that the Greens failed to cooperate in finding a solution in parliament to people smuggling, but Senator Milne said her party was standing by its principles.
“Labor doesn’t actually stand for anything any more,” she said.
Mr Abbott said the problems stemmed back to Ms Gillard’s post-election deal with the Greens.
“Every single member of the Labor Party who criticises the deal with the Greens is effectively criticising the prime minister, who did that deal to stay in office,” Mr Abbott said.
Labor MPs talked down the poll results, with cabinet secretary Mark Dreyfus saying Mr Abbott’s “scare campaign” over the carbon tax would wane over coming months.
However, Liberal figures said it was clear voters were not conned by cash handouts and tax cuts.