FRONT RUNNER: Labor leader Bill Shorten enjoyed funding a major upgrade to the Ipswich Motorway, and the Essential poll results have given him more reasons to smile.
FRONT RUNNER: Labor leader Bill Shorten enjoyed funding a major upgrade to the Ipswich Motorway, and the Essential poll results have given him more reasons to smile. David Nielsen

Turnbull on the way out as Shorten's ALP surges

THE BATTLE for Canberra is not going according to script.

The latest respected Essential poll has Labor ahead of the Coalition 52-48 on a two-party preferred basis, the first time the ALP has been ahead since Malcolm Turnbull overthrew Tony Abbott to become Prime Minister.

Essential Media Communications director Peter Lewis spoke to the QT about the poll and its implications.

"We'd had 50-50 for the best part of two months and it started trending up in favour of Labor last week and it has continued to trend up," he said.

"What has been happening at the same time is that the really high levels of approval for Turnbull have peaked and are on the way down.

"The reasons are probably manifest in the perception that the government isn't achieving a lot, and that is coming out in the call work we do as well.

"There is uncertainty around what the budget will hold and a lack of definition about the election trigger.

"Even awareness of the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission), let alone attitudes towards it, are really low.

"A government that has a lack of definition about its purpose is always struggling to attract support and that is when voters start looking for an alternative.

"Labor has put policies out there and while some of those are contested like negative gearing, the fact that they are in the game is reflected in these numbers."

Labor needs to win eight seats in Queensland, and the task ahead of it overall to regain government remains significant.

"The challenge of picking up 21 seats to change government is profound and the Coalition doesn't need to win seats, it needs to defend a handful to retain power," Mr Lewis said.

"But six months ago people thought the Coalition would be significantly ahead at this point and Turnbull would be stamping his authority on the nation, and neither of those two things are happening at the moment."

Mr Lewis said the samples in the national poll weren't big enough to provide meaningful numbers on the Queensland swing "but there are so many seats up for grabs there it is clearly going to be the battleground in terms of whether these top line results for Labor translate into meaningful gains in seats".

Mr Turnbull is still the preferred Prime Minister over Mr Shorten by a factor of almost two to one but Mr Lewis said "the party brand for Labor is fairly strong at the moment which is reflected in the fact the state government is travelling reasonably well."

Blair MP Shayne Neumann said he was heartened by the poll but added that he was taking nothing for granted.

"I am up to 247 mobile offices since the last election and I have continuously campaigned and continuously been available to people all over the place," he said.

"While the polls are encouraging we are the underdog. We've got 55 seats. They've got 90. They are the incumbent."

He said Labor's emphasis on jobs, infrastructure, education and health was resonating with the public.

Mr Neumann said Mr Turnbull's most recent "brain explosion" would have gone down like a lead balloon in Ipswich.

"He said it was beside the point that millionaires were getting negative gearing tax concessions, and I don't think the public of Ipswich would appreciate that," he said.

LNP candidate for Blair Teresa Harding said she was only interested in the poll on election day.

"I am concentrating on working on projects that create local jobs and ensure the people of Blair have their voice heard in Canberra," she said.

"I am committed to ensuring we get a fair share for Blair."

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