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Pacific News Minute: Australia’s Opposition Labor Party Wins Big in Special Elections

Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff

In Australia, the ruling Liberal National coalition took sobering losses in special parliamentary elections over the weekend. In today’s Pacific News Minute, Neal Conan considers the x-factor: Pie-gate.

Last week, much of Australia recoiled in mock horror at a picture Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull uploaded from the campaign trail in Tasmania. There he was, chowing down on an Australian favorite, a savory meat pie wielding a knife and fork.

Instant comparisons were drawn to politicians as varied as President Donald Trump and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, both caught using cutlery on some Kentucky Fried Chicken and a slice of pizza, respectively. All three were castigated as out of touch elitists, but de Blasio and Trump both won their elections. Turnbull wasn’t so lucky.

Five parliamentary seats were up on Saturday, four previously held by The Australian Labor Party, and one by the small Centre Alliance. That seat and two Labor seats in Western Australia were not seriously contested, but the seat in Tasmania and another in Queensland were both swing districts and regarded as test runs for national elections, due next year.

Credit Malcolm Turnbull / Instagram

In a very bad sign for Turnbull’s government, Labor held on to all four of its seats, with increased margins across the board. 

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Turnbull emphasized the national stakes in the by-election in the Queensland district of Longman. In particular Longman, he told ABC Brisbane, was “between me and Bill Shorten” – the leader of the Labor Party. Labor won Longman going away.

National opinion polls released yesterday showed that while voters narrowly prefer Labor, they widely prefer Turnbull over Shorten for prime minister.

Even after pie gate. 

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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