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A Malaysian-born man has pulled off an unlikely victory at the recent Australian federal elections, unseating a favoured incumbent en route to taking government with his party.
Sam Lim, 60, was born in Muar, Johor and worked as a dolphin trainer before moving to Australia in 2002, where he is now the member of Parliament (MP) for the seat of Tangney in Western Australia, reported Free Malaysia Today.
Lim will join fellow Australian Labor Party senator Penny Wong — Australia's new foreign minister — as elected Malaysian-born lawmakers in an increasingly diverse parliament.
In the nearby Western Australian electoral division of Moore, Singapore-born Liberal Party MP Ian Goodenough also hung onto his seat despite experiencing a 10.45 per cent swing against him in the vote, as reported by The Age.
SBS News reported that Asian representation in parliament doubled after the May 21 federal elections.
Winning against the odds
According to ABC News, Lim overturned a 9.5 per cent margin from the 2019 election to defeat Liberal Party MP Ben Morton.
Making the victory even more remarkable is the fact that Morton, a close friend and advisor of the defeated Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had been widely expected to hold his seat.
Tangney was considered a safe seat for the Liberal Party, having been won by their candidates in every election since 1984.
Addressing the media on May 22, one day after the elections, Lim spoke about his life's journey thus far, having grown up one of eight children in a "very poor family", reported ABC News.
"We had to struggle for the first 15 years of my life," he said, describing how the family home had a leaky roof, a dirt floor, and no running water or electricity.
"But that 15 years built me up to today."
"When I had to fight to win this seat, I utilised all that determination that I gained in the first 15 years of my life and I achieved it," he explained in an accent that still bore traces of his Malaysian heritage.
While his childhood dream had been to work as a police officer, Lim said that the job's low pay in Malaysia saw him take up work as a dolphin trainer instead.
He described that job as "my best job ever", reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
"I loved it because dolphins are so genuine," he said.
"Dolphins never hurt you. If you feel hurt you jump into the swimming pool and the dolphin will come to you and try to comfort you."
Lim's work with the marine mammals ended when creditors took over the safari park, and he eventually started a successful small business.
His earnings there allowed him to emigrate to Australia with his family, where he fulfilled his childhood dream by joining the Western Australian Police Force.
According to ABC News, Lim used his ability to speak 10 languages to good use while he was a police officer, working with multicultural communities during the pandemic.
The Star reported that Lim was awarded Officer of the Year at the Nine News Police Excellence Awards in December 2020 for his role in pandemic outreach, but a new task awaits him as MP.
"There is a big challenge for me to do better and I hope the Labor Party can be there for the next 45 years," he was quoted by ABC News as saying.
Broad rebuke to outgoing government.
Lim's victory came alongside a broad rebuke for Australia's government with candidates from the governing Liberal Party experiencing nationwide swings towards opposition candidates.
While on election night (May 21) it was clear that the Australian Labor Party would take back power after nine years, at the time of writing it is not yet certain that they will be able to form a majority government.
In Australia's 150-seat house of representatives, one party must win 76 seats in order to achieve an absolute majority; at the time of writing, The Age reports that Labor has 75 seats, with just over 74 per cent of the vote counted and four seats still to be called.
If Labor leader and Australia's new prime minister Anthony Albanese fails to reach 76 seats, his government will have to negotiate with what's called the crossbench — MPs in parliament who are from neither of the two major parties — in order to pass legislation.
And in the aftermath of what The Guardian dubbed a "historic move of voters away from the two major parties", this could mean that independent MPs and elected representatives from country's third biggest party, the Australian Greens, could hold considerable power.
In the particular, the confirmed presence of 10 independent MPs in the latest edition of Australia's parliament is notable for their route to victory — almost all were women who campaigned on a platform of climate action and conservative fiscal policy.
The fact that these independent MPs are female is also significant in a political atmosphere where the outgoing government has been accused of belittling women.
The biggest blow to the Liberal Party — the centre-right party that has governed Australia for the last nine years in a coalition with the smaller National Party of Australia — was the loss of Cabinet member Josh Frydenberg.
Frydenberg, who served as treasurer in the previous government (akin to Singapore's Finance Minister), was seen as a future leader of the party and had been the MP for the seat of Kooyong.
According to The Age, Kooyong has been held by conservative politicians for 122 years.
It will now be represented by Monique Ryan, a paediatric neurologist who has the distinction of being the first non-Liberal Party MP for the seat since 1945.
Top image from Sam Lim's Facebook page
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