KEVIN Rudd is doing a “bad job” on managing asylum-seekers, according to a majority of voters, while almost half think he is “too soft” on the issue. A Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian reveals 53 per cent think the Government is doing a bad job of handling the large influx of asylum-seeker boats this year, while only 31 per cent of voters are happy with the Prime Minister’s performance on the issue.

Labor voters are increasingly concerned about Mr Rudd’s stance, with the number of supporters who believe he is doing a good job on asylum-seekers falling from 53 per cent in April to 44 per cent.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is due to arrive in Colombo today for emergency talks on the large number of Sri Lankans seeking asylum in Australia. The Sri Lankan Government said yesterday Australia was considering a special “joint mechanism” to boost maritime and border control security, aimed at stopping boatpeople from leaving the region.

As Mr Rudd attempts to find a diplomatic breakthrough to the standoff that has left 78 asylum-seekers in limbo on Australian Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking for three weeks, only 21 per cent of voters believe Labor is the best party to best handle the asylum-seeker issue.

Newspoll also found 46 per cent thought the Government was “too soft” while only 16 per cent believed the government’s policies were “too hard”. But voters are also unimpressed with the Opposition, with just 22 per cent convinced that the Coalition would better handle the issue if it were in government. Voters have lost faith with both parties on the issue since April, but the Government – down from 27 per cent to 21 per cent – has fallen further than the Coalition – down from 26 per cent to 22 per cent.