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Rees losing grip on powerLisa Carty NSW Political Editor

| 31.05,09. 03:38 PM |

Rees losing grip on powerLisa Carty NSW Political Editor


May 31, 2009

Preferred premier: Barry O'Farrell 50%, Nathan Rees 33%


Labor's experiment with its new kid-on-the-block premier has been a disaster with Nathan Rees failing to win support and stop the party falling into oblivion.

An exclusive Sun-Herald/Taverner poll has shown the novice left-wing MP, installed by the dominant right-wing in September in a desperate "fresh start" ploy, is losing ground to Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell.

Just one-third of voters rank Mr Rees above Mr O'Farrell in the preferred premier category, with half favouring Mr O'Farrell.

This is a dramatic turnaround from just last month when another poll found 31 per cent of voters preferred Mr O'Farrell over Mr Rees, whose support has not budged from an unimpressive 33 per cent. The Opposition is still in a comfortable election-winning position, with the poll showing it would claim victory 54-46 on a two-party preferred basis.

Last June, as the electricity privatisation debate was spiralling out of control, a Sun-Herald/Taverner poll found the Opposition would win an election 56-44. Labor won the last State election in March 2007 by 52-48.

Mr Rees may take some consolation in the unimpressive assessments of possible leadership contenders, with the most active potential challenger Frank Sartor picked as premier material by only 10 per cent of voters.

Mr Sartor came in ahead of the most obvious right-wing female contender, Planning Minister Kristina Keneally, supported by just 7 per cent of voters, but way behind left-wing deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt, who was backed by 20 per cent of voters.

Last June's poll, taken at the time Mr Iemma was on the ropes, showed just 13 per cent of voters supported Mr Rees as his replacement, clear proof that anything is possible.

Pollster Philip Mitchell-Taverner said: "`It would appear, from a voter perspective, that Nathan Rees can remain in charge but without any strong mandate from the voting public."

This week's poll shows Mr Rees is a bit more popular with women than men, while Mr O'Farrell is more appealing to male voters.

Voters have no faith in Labor when it comes to improving crucial services such as health, roads and public transport, and a staggering 78 per cent would be happier if the Federal Government ran the health system, taking it out of the hands of the NSW Government.

Fifty-seven per cent felt the same way about education, wanting the State's schools and TAFE colleges run by Canberra.

Most voters - 70 per cent - had no confidence state Labor can improve the health system while more than half - 54 per cent - believe the Coalition could make a difference.

With public transport, 73 per cent had no confidence in the Government to make improvements while 47 per cent believed the Coalition could make gains.

Almost two-thirds of voters have given up on the Government improving roads, while more than half believe roads would be better under a Coalition government.

Asked to rate the Government's prowess as economic managers, voters delivered a slap in the face, with 64 per cent of voters saying it was "poor" or "terrible". In contrast, 59 per cent think the Coalition would be excellent or good at managing the economy.

With the state budget a fortnight away, this glum assessment of the Government's financial management will alarm the Labor Party and thrill the Opposition.

"Labor has created a strongly and widely held perception among voters that it is incapable of effectively managing the NSW economy," Mr Mitchell-Taverner said.

"When combined with the fact that voters also believe the current Government is less capable than the Opposition of managing the essential services of health, roads, public transport and even education, it faces a very big problem of survival."

Health is voters' main priority as 61 per cent say that's where big money should be spent.

SMH



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