GhostWhoVotes reports Newspoll’s third entry in the life of the new government has Labor hitting a 52-48 lead on two-party preferred, after leads of 56-44 and 52-48 for the Coalition in the first and second polls. This is Labor’s first two-party lead in Newspoll since the poll of March 18-20, 2011, which was itself an aberrant Labor-friendly result that emerged a month after Julia Gillard announced plans to introduce a carbon tax. Primary votes are 38% for Labor, up three on a fortnight ago, with the Coalition down three to 40% and the Greens down one to 9%.

UPDATE: James J in comments relates that Tony Abbott’s approval rating has maintained its downward trend across the three polls, going from 45% to 42% and now to 40%, while his disapproval has progressed upwards from 38% to 42% to 45%. Bill Shorten’s approval has gone from 37% to 39% to 44%, while his disapproval was 24% in the first poll to 27% in the second and third. Tony Abbott’s lead as preferred prime minister is also narrowing, going from 46-30 in the first poll to 44-33 in the second to 41-34 in the third.

UPDATE 2: The Australian’s report is here. Stay tuned for more polling action courtesy of Essential Research at around 2pm EST tomorrow – I believe we’re due for Essential’s monthly leadership ratings, which should be interesting.

UPDATE 3 (Essential Research): The Essential Research fortnightly average reflects the move to Labor in its characteristic slow and steady way, moving one point to Labor on two-party preferred for the second week in a row to reduce the Coalition lead to 51-49. Labor is up a point on the primary vote to 37%, the Coalition and the Greens steady on 44% and 8%, and the Palmer United Party is up one to 5%. Tony Abbott’s approval rating is unchanged on last month at 45%, but his disapproval rating is up six to 46%. Bill Shorten on the other hand finds things going his way as the undecided jump off the fence, his approval up eight to 39% and disapproval up four to 31%. Similarly to Newspoll, Abbott holds a 43-33 lead as preferred prime minister, narrowing from 42-27 last time.

Questions on education provide the government with better results than it might have feared: its handling of education has 35% approval and 50% disapproval, while Labor’s lead as better party to handle the issue is only 36-33, although there’s also a 7% Greens component in the mix. Only 26% believe all schools will be better off under the new government, 26% believe only private schools will and 22% believe no schools will, with 2% signing on to the unlikely proposition that only public schools will. Also canvassed are the importance of unions “for Australian working people today” (57% important, 34% not important), and the importance of politicians keeping their promises.

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