Bennelong by-election win helps Turnbull hold on to slim majority

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull managed to retain his one-seat parliamentary majority in parliament after his party candidate John Alexander won the crucial Bennelong by-election on Saturday.

This came as a big relief for Turbull whose leadership would have been questioned had Alexander lost the polls.

One-third of the electorate in Bennelong seat are Chinese-Australians and Labor had campaigned hard to swing their votes for party candidate Kristina Keneally by highlighting Turnbull government’s charges of China meddling in Australian politics and tougher migrant tests.

The counting so far indicates a victory for Alexander against Keneally. When more than half the primary votes  were counted on Saturday night, the Liberals had a swing against them of about 6.3% while the swing to Labor was around 7.6%. The projected 54-46% win for the Liberal was a solid gain for Labor but not enough to pull off a shock upset.

Turnbull said Alexander, a former tennis champion, won yet another great title.

Government minister Christopher Pyne said on Sky News that it was a win for Turnbull and he had ended the year on an “incredible high”.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Bennelong’s voters had given Labor an election-winning swing at the next election. Keneally was jubilant in defeat saying Labor had been energised by the result.

Alexander was forced to resign from parliament and face by-election in his Sydney electorate after he was found to have dual Australian and British citizenship.

Labor itself could face by-elections in 2018 as some of its MPs were found to have breached the constitutional bar on federal politicians having dual citizenship.

Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had to resign and be re-elected in his rural seat after he was found to have inherited citizenship from New Zealand.