Still mountain to climb: Labor cautious

Labor is claiming underdog status as two new opinion polls show voters evenly divided in their support for the Turnbull government and the opposition.

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Despite clawing itself back into the game, senior frontbencher Penny Wong says Labor faces the challenge of defeating a first-term government.

“We all know how high that mountain is to climb,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

Senator Wong was responding to the findings of two polls – Newspoll and Ipsos/Fairfax – that both show a dramatic slide in support for the coalition and its leader since Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott seven months ago.

The key findings of the two polls reveal:

* Newspoll has Labor leading the coalition 51-49 per cent; Ipsos has them tied at 50-50.

* Malcolm Turnbull maintains his lead – 27 per cent in Ipsos and 19 per cent in Newspoll – over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister.

* Dissatisfaction with Mr Turnbull is up 18 points this year to 49 per cent in Newspoll.

Senator Wong said the high hopes Australians had for Mr Turnbull have been dashed.

“I think people are responding to the fact that we’ve got a prime minister who doesn’t have a plan for government,” she said.

That view is borne out in the Ipsos poll which shows voters now doubt Mr Turnbull’s ability to make things happen.

A little over half think he has a clear vision for Australia’s future.

However seven out of 10 see him as a competent leader, while nearly as many believe he has a firm grasp of economic policy.

Cabinet minister Simon Birmingham believes those qualities will stand the coalition in good stead on polling day.

“I have no doubt that Malcolm’s capabilities and economic leadership will ultimately be the deciding matter in this election,” he told Sky News.

Colleague George Brandis said margins narrowed as you enter the “home stretch”.

“These polls are pretty much where we would have expected them to be at this stage in the cycle,” he told ABC radio.

The Ipsos poll shows 65 per cent back Labor’s call for a royal commission into the banking an financial services sectors.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the polls show a huge wave of disappointment in Mr Turnbull’s leadership.

“He has failed to show any leadership on issues like global warming, marriage equality and a little more decency towards people seeking refuge in this country,” he told reporters in Canberra.