Gender war backfires as men ditch Australia PM

Gender war backfires as men ditch Australia PM

Gender war backfires as men ditch Australia PM

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's attempt to marginalise the opposition by claiming it would change abortion rights and sideline women has backfired with a poll today showing male voters are deserting her.

Gillard, the country's first female leader, last week reignited a simmering gender war by saying in a speech that government would be dominated by "men in blue ties" should opposition leader Tony Abbott assume office in September elections.

"It's a decision about whether, once again, we will banish women's voice from the core of our political life," said the embattled prime minister in the speech, desperate to shore up waning support.

"We don't want to live in an Australia where abortion again becomes the political plaything of men who think they know better."

But the ploy has backfired with a poll in Fairfax Media showing male voters are abandoning Gillard and the Australian Labour Party (ALP) and there is little sign of more women getting behind her.

The telephone poll of 1,400 voters found that since the last survey a month ago Labour's standing has continued to slide, led entirely by a seven percent exodus of men.

Under a two-party vote, the conservative opposition would romp home in the September 14 elections with 57 per cent (up three points) to 43 per cent (down three points) for Labour.

Labour's primary vote, which strips out the support of minor parties, has slumped to just 29 per cent with the opposition at 47 per cent -- a huge lead which would wipe out 35 Labour MPs, the poll showed.

Pollster John Stirton said the swing against Labour occurred only among men. "Labour's primary vote was down seven points among men and up one point among women. The ALP two-party vote fell 10 points among men and rose two points among women,'' he said.

But the poll, taken between Thursday and Saturday, showed that if Gillard's arch-rival Kevin Rudd was returned as Labour leader, their primary vote would be a much more competitive 40 percent to the opposition's 42 percent.

The unmarried Gillard has often been the subject of jibes about her gender, clothing and private life and she won global acclaim last year for comments on misogyny, claiming she was sick and tired of dealing with alleged sexism from Abbott and the opposition.