Sydney: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is facing defeat at next month’s Australian election with polls in the nation’s most marginal electorates indicating the opposition may gain enough seats to form government.

The ruling Labor party would lose at least five seats in the 7 September election, according to separate polls published in the Australian Financial Review and Sydney Morning Herald. The opposition coalition needs to gain four additional seats to make Tony Abbott the prime minister.

“There’s no doubt we’re still the underdog, and there’s no doubt that Tony Abbott, if the election was held on the day it was announced would be the prime minister," finance minister Penny Wong told the Financial Review Sunday program on Australian television.

Rudd pledged A$500 million ($459 million) over the weekend to help the nation’s car industry after producers cut jobs and announced plant closures as lower tariffs and a strong Australian dollar make imported models cheaper. The coalition announced plans for a parental leave system to start from 2015 that would give mothers 26 weeks leave at their full wage.

In the four most marginal electorates held by each side, Rudd’s party would retain just one seat while failing to take any from the opposition if the election were held now, according to a JWS Research poll in the Australian Financial Review. The ruling party is on course to lose two other seats in New South Wales state, a separate poll by ReachTel in the Sydney Morning Herald indicates.

76-Seat Target

Labor, with 71 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, has relied on support from independent lawmakers and the Greens party since forming a minority government after the 2010 election. Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition, which had 72 lawmakers in the chamber where government is formed, needs to increase that to 76 at the election to rule in its own right.

Both leaders have put management of the world’s 12th- largest economy at the centre of their campaigns, amid slowing growth as a China-led boom in mining investment wanes. While Rudd has narrowed the margin in opinion polls since defeating Julia Gillard in a 26 June Labor party ballot, Abbott remains on track to win government.

The JWS Research poll sampled the Labor-held seats of Lindsay, Greenway and Banks in Western Sydney and Corangamite in Victoria state. It canvassed the coalition seats of Brisbane and Forde in Queensland, Aston in Victoria and Macquarie in New South Wales. Labor is trailing in the seat of McMahon, held by treasurer Chris Bowen, and in Kingsford Smith, which is being vacated by former minister Peter Garrett, according to ReachTel.

Beattie’s Struggle

Labor’s best chance of victory was in Greenway, where the Australian Financial Review said a result was “too close to call." Coalition candidate Jaymes Diaz is leading incumbent Michelle Rowland by 46% to 44% on the primary vote, the survey shows.

Former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, who announced he would contest Forde in the state’s southeast last week, is trailing incumbent member Bert van Manen by 33% to 54% on the primary vote, a 9.9% swing since the 2010 election, the poll shows according to the Financial Review.

JWS Research sampled 568 people in Forde, held by a 1.6% margin by van Manen. The poll canvassed a total of 4,739 people and has a margin of error of 4.2%, according to the newspaper.

Federal support for Labor trails the opposition at 35% on the primary vote, slipping for a second week in a row, according to a Galaxy survey published on Sunday in the Sunday Telegraph. The coalition primary support was unchanged at 45%.

Galaxy puts coalition support at 52% and Labor on 48% on a two party preferred basis, under which votes from smaller parties are distributed to the two major parties under the nation’s preferential voting system. Bloomberg