- Ex-Army captain Hastie retains seat of Canning for party
- Turnbull preparing to announce ministry after becoming PM
The ruling Liberal Party won a special election in Western Australia in a sign new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has boosted the government’s fortunes since he ousted Tony Abbott.
Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie, 32, beat his Labor opponent Matt Keogh, 33, to retain the parliamentary seat of Canning, offering a fillip to Turnbull as he prepared to announce his new Cabinet.
"I’m very confident that Malcolm Turnbull will do everything he needs to do to ensure that the party is strong and united moving forward," Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Sunday in an interview with Sky News Television. Turnbull’s incoming Cabinet would seek to ensure it can "provide good and effective government, and that we are in the best possible position to win the next election as a team."
Former Special Air Service Regiment army captain Hastie was projected to win in Canning by 55 percent to 45 percent on a two-party preferred basis, with about 70 percent of votes counted, according to the Australian Electoral Commission’s website. That equates to a swing against the Liberal Party of 6.9 percent, the commission said.
The result indicates Turnbull, 60, has reduced a voter backlash against the government since taking the top job from Abbott on Sept. 14 and promising to set out his vision to shore up an economy battered by the slowdown in China.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison will replace Treasurer Joe Hockey in Turnbull’s new ministry, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Sunday, citing people that it didn’t identify. Defense Minister Kevin Andrews is among ministers to be demoted or replaced, the Herald Sun reported Sunday, without saying where it got the information.
Opinion polls taken before Abbott’s ouster indicated the Liberals would hold Canning, albeit with a greatly reduced margin --- amid public discontent with a government marred by internal divisions and slowing economic growth. Canning is at the heart of a state that’s suffering from a drop in mining investment amid weaker growth in demand from China for its iron ore, copper and other minerals.
The so-called by-election was triggered by the death in July of Liberal lawmaker Don Randall, who had represented the district since 2001.
Randall retained the seat in September 2013 with 62 percent of votes to Labor’s 38 percent. A Fairfax-Ipsos poll of voters in the seat published Sept. 14, before Turnbull won the leadership later that day, indicated the Liberals could win as little as 52 percent of the vote to Labor’s 48 percent.
Canning, a district with about about 100,000 voters, includes the working-class southern fringes of Perth, farmland and the coastal city of Mandurah. The state’s unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent in August from 3.9 percent three years ago. The national average is 6.2 percent.
Hastie served in multiple tours of Afghanistan and the Middle East. He’s pledged to improve road infrastructure and combat an “epidemic” of methamphetamine abuse.