SYDNEY (AFP) — Surging support for the Greens could help topple Australia's environment minister in what had previously been a safe seat for the conservative government, a poll showed Monday.
The Greens are set to win 17 percent of the vote in the Sydney seat of Wentworth held by Malcolm Turnbull, the AC Nielsen poll showed, which could be enough to oust him under Australia's system of preferential voting.
Climate change has been one of the key issues in the election campaign, with Prime Minister John Howard's government pilloried by the opposition for having failed to sign the UN's Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming.
Turnbull's seat covers some of the city's wealthiest suburbs, including world-famous Bondi Beach, and has traditionally been seen as a safe seat for Prime Minister John Howard's Liberal party.
But a recent boundary redistribution saw it pick up parts of "Gay Sydney," including the red light district of Kings Cross and the nearby trendy district of Darlinghurst
Under the system of preferential voting, if Green voters mark the opposition Labor party as their second choice ahead of Turnbull -- as the party leadership has recommended -- they could swing the seat.
The poll of 901 voters, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, showed that when preferences were taken into account, Labor's candidate George Newhouse had a lead over Turnbull of 52 percent to 48 percent.
Almost nine in 10 respondents planning to vote for the Greens or other minor candidates in the seat said they intended to give their preferences to Newhouse.
If the seat is lost, it would be the first time it has slipped from conservative hands since Australia's federation in 1901.
Polls predict a landslide defeat for Howard in Saturday's election at the hands of the centre-left Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd.
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