A STRONG surge in Julia Gillard's personal standings over the past month was a sign voters were moving on from Tony Abbott's negative behaviour, the government said yesterday.
And an incremental increase in Labor's support was a sign the Coalition's scare campaign on the carbon tax had foundered, it said.
The latest Herald/Nielsen poll showed that, in one month, Ms Gillard's approval rating rose 5 percentage points to 47 per cent and her disapproval rating fell 5 points to 48 per cent. She also increased her lead over Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister to 10 points.
Mr Abbott remains personally unpopular but the Coalition leads Labor on a two-party preferred basis by 52 per cent to 48 per cent, enough to secure a comfortable victory if an election were held now. It also found 42 per cent of Australians believed Mr Abbott was sexist. Mr Abbott refuted this finding yesterday.
''I deny utterly that claim. It's not a sustainable claim,'' he said.
The poll was the first major survey since Ms Gillard launched a scathing attack on Mr Abbott, labelling him a sexist and a misogynist.
The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said some Australians seemed to have missed the ''dripping hypocrisy'' in the speech.
''Quite frankly, for those who bore witness to the concepts of the speech, the hypocrisy of her words was not lost,'' he said.
The Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, told ABC radio Labor's improving ratings showed the Coalition's scare campaign on the carbon tax had failed.
''It's a trend that's been evident since the 1st of July … on that day, the sky did not fall in [and] Whyalla's still there,'' Dr Emerson said. ''Tony Abbott's ratings are collapsing because all he's got left is this relentless negativity.''
The Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury, said the poll showed Labor in a stronger position in two-party terms than it had been for some time.
''We've got a year to go … If we make the sort of progress that we've made in the last six months in the next 12 months, then this will be a very tight contest,'' Mr Bradbury told ABC radio.
The Finance Minister, Penny Wong, said Australians were getting a ''very clear picture'' of the difference between Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott's ''aggressively negative'' behaviour.