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Apr 1, 2023
Australia’s Government Strengthens Grip With By-Election Win
(Bloomberg) -- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese won a historic victory at a by-election in the state of Victoria, becoming the first government in more than 100 years to take a district off the opposition outside a national vote.
The ruling Labor party’s candidate, Mary Doyle, was set to win the district of Aston in eastern Melbourne, according to Australian Broadcasting Corp. projections. The victory bolsters Albanese’s parliamentary majority and confirms his government’s popularity after 10 months in office amid rising interest rates and inflation.
Following the Aston win, Albanese’s government holds 78 districts in the 151-member House of Representatives. The result comes a week after Labor won an election in New South Wales, the most populous state, meaning the center-left now controls all seven state and territory governments on Australia’s mainland. Only the southern island state of Tasmania has a center-right government.
A by-election is a vote to fill a vacancy caused by the departure of a lawmaker outside a general election, with Saturday’s ballot triggered by former minister Alan Tudge’s resignation from parliament. No government has won a seat off an opposition party at a by-election since 1920, and ahead of the vote it was expected that the center-right Liberal Party would narrowly retain the district.
The loss is likely to spark questions about the performance of Liberal Party leader and former Defence Minister Peter Dutton after less than one year in the role. Dutton has generally stuck to the script of an opposition leader, regularly rejecting government policies, including increased action on climate change.
Dutton, speaking on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, said he took responsibility for the election loss and would be analyzing the result. But he still had the support of his party, he said.
“We have a particular problem in Victoria, there’s no question about that,” he said. “I think there are issues in relation to policy and personnel, issues in relation to our campaigning techniques.”
The party would not be rushing to announce any policy changes, Dutton said.
“In recent years the Liberal Party has allowed itself to be defined by our opponents and I think it’s time for us to stand up for what we believe in, whether it’s trendy or not,” he said.
(Adds Liberal Party leader’s comments from sixth paragraph.)
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