The West

Under-fire PM could hurt vote

Liberals are growing concerned that Prime Minister Tony Abbott's wobbly performance in recent days could hurt the party's chances in next week's WA Senate poll.

Leaked Labor research shows WA voters see health and education issues as key to the poll and want the Government's Commission of Audit released before voting day.

Mr Abbott has come under fire from members of his backbench, Liberal premiers and even former prime minister John Howard in the past week.

Mr Howard said yesterday that he did not agree with Mr Abbott's decision to reinstitute knights and dames into the Australian honours list, saying he thought the move "somewhat anachronistic".

Malcolm Turnbull lampooned the move during a speech to some of Australia's most powerful media figures on Wednesday night, saying knights and dames were often used as honours in "esteemed republics" such as Peru and Guatemala.

Premier Colin Barnett also raised his eyebrows, saying Australia should be moving forward, not backwards.

Yesterday, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell attacked Attorney-General George Brandis for his claim Australians have a "right to be bigoted", warning vilification on grounds of race was always wrong.

The Government faced down an historic vote of no confidence in Speaker Bronwyn Bishop yesterday amid continuing complaints from Labor that she is biased.

Senior Liberal figures are urging the PM to get back on track and focus on key messages such as the Government's plan to remove the mining tax and reduce debt and deficit.

Labor Party research obtained by _The West Australian _ shows WA voters are sensitive to the issue of health and education budget cuts, with about 30 per cent nominating it as their top issue of concern.

And when ALP pollsters recently asked whether the Abbott Government should release its 900-page Commission of Audit ahead of April 5, 69 per cent responded in the affirmative.

It is understood that the ALP polling found just 2 per cent of respondents rated the mining tax as the issue that would most influence their vote.

Parties across the spectrum are finding that "standing up for WA" is the theme that strikes loudest among voters, explaining Clive Palmer's campaign message and why the Liberals are referring to the carbon and mining taxes as "anti-West Australian".

The West Australian

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