Australian PM plays down poll boost

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard predicted a close contest in August elections despite a respected opinion poll today showing her centre-left government gaining popularity.

Ms Gillard, the country’s first woman prime minister, at the weekend set elections for August 21 – only a month after she ousted her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

A survey by Newspoll, a Sydney-based market research company part-owned by News Corp, published in The Australian newspaper today found that Labour’s support among voters outweighed that of the conservative coalition 55% to 45%.

Ms Gillard dismissed the latest poll as one of many that would be published during the five-week election campaign.

She said “this election is on a knife edge” and predicted “a photo finish”.

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