Government candidate wins Australia by-election amid cost-of-living squeeze


  • World
  • Sunday, 03 Mar 2024

FILE PHOTO: A view of Brighton Beach in front of the Melbourne skyline during sunset in Melbourne, Australia, July 19, 2023. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A candidate from Australia's government claimed victory late on Saturday in a by-election in Victoria state seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's handling of cost-of-living pressures across the country.

Candidate Jodie Belyea of the centre-left Labor Party defeated Nathan Conroy of the conservative Liberal party in the by-election in the electorate of Dunkley, in Victoria's capital Melbourne, sparked by the death of the sitting Labor member.

The win is a boost for the government as Australians experience financial pressure from high inflation, which although recently easing has prompted the nation's central bank to hike interest rates by 425 basis points since May 2022 to a 12-year top of 4.35%.

Labor's Belyea received 52.53% of the votes, while Conroy got 47.47%, according to the Australian Electoral Commission's website. Labor had held the seat on a margin of 6.3% going into the vote and there had been predictions of a close contest.

"Congratulations to Jodie Belyea on her victory in the Dunkley by-election and winning the honour of serving her local community in Federal Parliament," Albanese said on social media platform X late on Saturday.

"Our Government understands the cost of living is the biggest challenge facing Australians which is why helping people under pressure remains our number one priority."

Albanese, in a bid to help with nationwide living costs, announced in January a revamped tax policy set to reduce benefits to the wealthy while giving low-income earners more breaks.

The political opposition, lifting in popularity in recent polling, says the government has failed to keep a lid on everyday costs like groceries, petrol and mortgage repayments.

David Littleproud, leader of the Nationals opposition party, said a swing against Labor in the by-election showed the impact of higher living costs.

"I think it shows that people are hurting out there," Littleproud told Australia's Channel Nine TV on Sunday, according to a transcript.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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