Gillard on the nose as state leaders face voters

THE Victorian Labor Leader, Daniel Andrews, has sought to firewall Julia Gillard from a looming Greens victory in next week's Melbourne state byelection, saying it would be wrong to attribute such a result to disenchantment with the federal government.

At the same time, Mr Andrews was not keen for Ms Gillard to visit the seat in the lead-up to next Saturday's election, should she offer.

''The Prime Minister's very busy; she has a full-time job to do,'' he said.

Following the West Australian Labor leader, Mark McGowan, and the Northern Territory's Paul Henderson, both of whom face elections soon, Mr Andrews became the latest state Labor leader to politely reject a suggestion of the Prime Minister campaigning on his patch.

The NSW Opposition Leader, John Robertson, sought to the defend this stance yesterday, saying it was obvious federal Labor was in difficulty at the moment. Having Ms Gillard associated with an election campaign would only allow mischievous Liberals to conflate federal issues with state ones, he said.

The Melbourne byelection has taken on a new significance since Labor waged war on the Greens a week ago. The NSW ALP general-secretary, Sam Dastyari, of the NSW Right, has proposed a motion for tomorrow's state conference in which Labor would preference the Greens last instead of automatically putting them first.

The move has put the spotlight on the power-sharing agreement Ms Gillard made with the Greens and led to pent-up frustrations being vented.

While the NSW Left will support Mr Dastyari's motion tomorrow so long as it does not signal an overall shift to the right by Labor, views in the Victorian Left are mixed.

Some believe the attacks have helped the Greens in the Melbourne byelection because it has further angered progressive voters whom the Labor Left was trying to win back.

Others did not care. ''I'm sick to death of them,'' said one Left federal MP.

The Greens leader, Christine Milne, has emailed thousands of members and supporters pleading ''we're under attack'' and asking for donations so the Greens can run a full-page ad in the Melbourne Age before the byelection ''so we can share our positive vision with voters before election day''.

Labor polling was leaked this week showing that significant disenchantment with federal Labor was driving a surge in support for the Greens in Melbourne. This raised speculation that, should the Greens win, Ms Gillard's already-strained leadership will be under greater pressure.

Mr Andrews said lots of people were trying to find a reason to look at the byelection through the prism of Ms Gillard's leadership. ''It's not a fair analysis in this case,'' he said.

Melbourne people were smart and would separate state and federal issues.

''It's not a matter of opinion, it's a fact that the Commonwealth government faces very significant issues. This is a state election and we are fighting it on state issues.''

Ms Gillard concurred.

''People in Melbourne, you don't want to insult their intelligence, that would be very unfair,'' she said.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has begun cashing in on the unrest in Labor over the Greens. Campaigning against the carbon price yesterday, Mr Abbott said the policy was ''not driven by Labor values but by Greens values''.

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