Labour has promised to withdraw troops from Iraq and sign the Kyoto climate pact, but the election will also be fought and won on domestic issues.
Rudd, 50, has promised sweeping reforms to health and education as well as an overhaul of controversial labour laws introduced by Howard.
A Taverner/Sun Herald newspaper poll said that those laws which cut working conditions and make it easier to hire and fire workers are a major reason first-time voters and those aged under 29 seem likely to dump Howard, with three-quarters backing Labour.
The poll, published on Sunday, showed Labour with 59 per cent of the vote, compared to the government’s 41 per cent.
With Labour needing to pick up 16 seats in the 150-seat lower house to take power, the survey showed Rudd was on track for a win, with up to 20 seats expected to change from government hands on polling day, the newspaper said.
Howard, the country’s second-longest serving leader, who is seeking a fifth term, has stressed his economic stewardship and tough security credentials to win back voters.
Last week unemployment hit 33-year lows amid the ongoing global resources boom.
However, the prime minister’s bedrock support in mortgage-paying outer suburban areas has been shaken since the last election, three years ago.
Successive interest rate rises have taken lending rates to 6.5 per cent under a tightening cycle that began back in 2002.
Howard has promised a national vote on recognition for Aborigines in the country’s constitution if he wins, a move dismissed by opponents as a last ditch effort to present a “vision” to lure back jaded former conservative supporters.