Today’s selection from online news sites

LABOR'S execution of Kevin Rudd appears to be paying dividends.

The government has hit the front at the start of a lightning election campaign that ends on August 21.

Julia Gillard is also scoring off Tony Abbott personally and repairing the government's weak spots on asylum-seekers and climate change.

The first Newspoll survey taken since the Prime Minister called the election on Saturday reveals Coalition support has dropped while Labor's primary vote has held steady at 42 per cent to the opposition's 38 per cent.

TONY Abbott has abandoned a proposal to exempt small business from unfair dismissal laws.

And the sector declared yesterday it had become the victim of politics.

Employers were disappointed by the Opposition Leader's pledge on Saturday not to change federal workplace laws for three years and urged Mr Abbott to keep an open mind about industrial reform.

Coalition sources said there was "no stomach" for the dismissal changes among senior opposition figures who feared a promise of substantial change would energise the union movement's anti-Work Choices campaign and torpedo the Coalition's prospects at the election. This follows a proposal floated in April to slash to five or fewer workers the proposed exemption from the laws for business with 20 staff or fewer.

THE magic number for a change of government on August 21 is 17.

For Tony Abbott to defeat Julia Gillard and become prime minister, the Liberals and Nationals must win 17 seats from Labor to be absolutely certain of government in their own right.

For Ms Gillard to become the shortest-lived prime minister to be defeated at an election, Labor only has to lose 13 seats.

These numbers are determined by the simple fact that to win government in the current House of Representatives of 150 electorates, with one MP per electorate, one side has to win 75 seats plus one.

Labor and the Greens are on the verge of a comprehensive preference deal that would boost the government's prospects of holding on to power while helping the Greens achieve the balance of power in the Senate.

Sources said the deal was close to fruition and more comprehensive than that crunched at the last election, while the Greens leader, Bob Brown, indicated it was all but done.

The agreement would give Labor crucial Greens preferences for House of Representatives seats in all but a handful of electorates where Greens branches will exercise their right to choose otherwise. In return, Labor will direct its Senate preferences towards the Greens.

LONDON: Britain will not follow France by introducing a law banning women from wearing the burqa, the Immigration Minister says.

Damian Green said such a move would be ''rather un-British'' and run contrary to conventions of a ''tolerant and mutually respectful society''.

It would be ''undesirable'' for Parliament to vote on a burqa ban and there was no prospect of the Coalition government proposing it, Mr Green said.

It is already clear that asylum seekers and ''stopping the boats'' will be a critical element of this election. Yet the politics of asylum seekers is both deflating and confounding.

Little wonder the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, in an unguarded moment, reflected on his frustrations over the issue which he said was ''killing the government''. Evans later said his frustrations were historical and things had changed since Julia Gillard became prime minister.

Nevertheless, the issue remains perplexing. One poll last week showed tougher rhetoric on asylum seekers had boosted the government's electoral support, despite a significant proportion of people polled saying they had little faith the government's plan for a regional processing centre would work.

The party could be on the verge of winning its first federal lower house seat.

COLIN Jacobs used to be one of the Labor faithful. For seven years, he was a paid-up member, volunteer and, eventually, president of the Clayton South branch. But over the past 12 months, he says, ''disillusionment set in''.

For Mr Jacobs, a 34-year-old software developer, Labor's decision to shelve the emissions trading scheme was a cop-out. The party's push for internet filtering made little sense. And its position on asylum seekers was lurching too far to the right.