The first week of this ultra-marathon of an election campaign has already led to premature erections (of election posters), premature exaltation (of the Greens talking about forming government with Labor), and now, it seems, Iain Evans is suffering from premature speculation.

Let’s deal with Iain’s claims in a manner that is reasoned, unlike the arguments he puts forward.

Candidates for the Nick Xenophon Team are running in other states, but most candidates come from SA where the strongest support base is. That’s because South Australians have had a chance to scrutinise me for many years and to see how I’ve advocated for them in both the state and federal parliaments.

The recent submarines announcement was clearly welcome, but it seems those benefits won’t materialise for a number of years, and Robert Gottliebsen’s piece yesterday gives a stark reality check.

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The fact is that focusing naval shipbuilding in one state is entirely consistent with analysis by both Defence in 2013, and the RAND Corporation in 2015, which talked about the efficiencies of having a continuous build instead of the stop-start fragmented nature of naval shipbuilding in the past. Defence even acknowledged that the lack of a continuous-build program could cost taxpayers “tens of billions of dollars” over the next 30 years, which clearly is not in the national interest.

It is in the national interest to concentrate naval shipbuilding in a centre of excellence and efficiency — at Techport in SA, with the sustainment work being carried out where the naval bases are in Perth, Sydney, Cairns and Darwin.

In any event, a local build does have nation-wide flow-on benefits that are unambiguously good for the nation.

Iain fails to understand that what can be good for SA on certain issues can also good for the nation. I demonstrated that back in 2009 when my casting vote over the stimulus package led to measures worth almost $1 billion for the Murray-Darling river system in crisis during the millennium drought. Something the Liberal Party was incapable of negotiating at the time.

It’s a cheap shot for Iain to be saying that my team is based on populism, not a philosophy. Iain needs to have a good look at the website, where the three policy pillars of predatory gambling, Australian-made goods and Australian jobs, and government and corporate accountability are set out. That’s not populism; it is based on a commonsense approach from the political centre.

The fact that Iain’s Liberal Party, and Labor, have sold out on those three core issues is something that is conveniently overlooked by him. Our candidates across the country are united in bringing about reforms that the major parties have ignored. Making poker machines safer and less addictive (with $1 bets for instance), clamping down on online gambling and advertising during games, having a government procurement policy that favours Australian-made goods and jobs, and protecting whistleblowers are just some examples.

If Iain thinks these policy positions will hurt our votes, then he is completely out of touch.

If the major parties want to have a debate on our policy positions, or on the work I have done over the last eight years on literally dozens of Senate inquiries — including dumping, non-conforming building products, the Automotive Transformation Scheme, and internet predators, then bring it on.

I don’t have the massive war chests of the major parties, funded by big corporations for the Liberals or unions for the ALP. In fact, we are running not so much on a shoestring budget but a dental floss budget. So if Iain is obsessing that I’m using cut-through lines to get the message across, that sounds like sour grapes.

Iain’s personal attack on Nick Xenophon Team candidate for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is really quite sad. Rebekha has met thousands of Mayo voters in the past few months and the feedback I’m getting is overwhelmingly positive. She’s dynamic, in touch with the community and will fight for Mayo in the federal Parliament.

In the highly speculative and unlikely event that we are fortunate enough to be in a balance of power position in the lower house, we would want to negotiate the very best deal for the nation based on our three core principles. If we are in that position, we will support the party that is prepared to support and implement our positions on predatory gambling, Australian-made goods and Australian jobs, and government and corporate accountability. To declare our hand now would not only be premature, it would destroy our negotiating position to get the best outcomes.

If that’s the way Iain would like to negotiate, good luck to him. But we would be absolute mugs to lock ourselves in now.

This election is a chance for voters to elect candidates that put the national interest first rather than the vested interests of the left and right of politics.

Nick Xenophon is a Senator for South Australia and leader of the Nick Xenophon Team.

*This article was originally published at InDaily

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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