Govt ‘united’ despite looming poll marker

Peter Dutton expected the government would slide in the polls after the Barnaby Joyce scandal.Cabinet minister Greg Hunt insists Malcolm Turnbull has a very strong and unified frontbench as his poll losses near the level of his predecessor.

The latest Newspoll is the 28th time the government has been behind since the 2016 election, taking it close to the 30 Newspolls the now prime minister used as the trigger for toppling Tony Abbott in 2015.

Asked what kind of support Mr Turnbull has from the frontbench given he could soon fail his own test, Mr Hunt insisted the government has a “very, very strong and unified frontbench”.

“Our task is to get on with doing the job,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Mr Abbott on Monday said it was Mr Turnbull who set the test and if he failed the test the prime minister would need to explain why it was right for one and not right for the other.

“It will be up to him to tell us all why the test doesn’t apply in his case.”

The latest Newspoll, published after Barnaby Joyce’s resignation as deputy prime minister, shows the two-party preferred vote unchanged with Labor on 53 per cent and the coalition 47 per cent.

But Peter Dutton expected the government would take a hit in the polls after a scandalous few weeks.

“I thought the government would always take a hit in the polls given the last few weeks, there’s no sense being coy about that,” the Home Affairs Minister told reporters in Jakarta on Monday.

“So that’s going to come and go through the polls, but I believe the government is doing a lot of good.”

The coalition’s two-party preferred vote was at 48 per cent until Mr Joyce’s scandal surrounding his relationship with a former staffer erupted almost four weeks ago.

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