10 December 2003

Public backs Latham's Bush attack

Almost half the Australian public agree with Mark Latham that US President George Bush is "incompetent and dangerous", according to a poll.

An ACNielsen AgePoll of 1363 people taken last weekend found that 45 per cent of Australians agree with the blistering attack by the new Opposition Leader on the head of Australia's most important ally, while 52 per cent disagree. Mr Latham made the comment well before he became Opposition Leader.

The poll found that 51 per cent of Australians believe Labor was right to oppose Australia's involvement in the Iraq war, while 45 per cent say it was wrong.

In January, when debate centred on whether the UN would sanction force against Iraq, only 6 per cent of Australians responding to an AgePoll were prepared to send Australian troops to war against Iraq. On April 1, 12 days after the first bombs had dropped, support for the war had grown to 44 per cent.

In the latest AgePoll, opponents of the war outnumber supporters in every state except Queensland and in every age group.

The startling findings suggest that Mr Bush's decision to invade Iraq despite global opposition has badly damaged his support within Australia, one of his country's closest allies.

It also indicates that the Iraq war has polarised Australians, and not only on party lines.

The poll found 26 per cent of Coalition voters believe Mr Bush is incompetent and dangerous, and 31 per cent think Labor was right to oppose Australian involvement in Iraq.

If this is Bush's popular standing in a nation counted among the closest allies of the US then what is it in the Arab world?

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