As desperate smear campaigns go, the Australian Labor Party has sunk to fresh depths last week with its complaint against Ian Melrose, a key donor to the Nick Xenophon Team, the new eponymous political party led by the South Australian Senator.

This is not any old complaint about campaign finance, however; it has the whiff of desperation about it. Put simply, the ALP is shit scared of Xenophon. In fact, so is the Liberal Party. In the 2013 election, Xenophon polled ahead of Labor in the South Australia Senate election, getting close to two seats.

According to the latest Newspoll, NXT is set to collect 22% of the primary vote in South Australia — that’s about 2% higher than his 2013 Senate vote. Nationwide, the lone South Australian senator’s team is polling 4%. That’s a big vote for what is, effectively, a one-man band.

Make no mistake, he will be targeting four seats this time around. In a double dissolution the calculus is different. Only 7% percent is required to win a Senate seat, and if NXT vote holds — and it is likely to increase as disillusionment with the major parties grows — Xenophon looks certain to pick up at least three. So will Labor. So the tussle between NXT and the ALP is likely to be for the final seat.

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“South Australia has suddenly become important to the nation because success for the Nick Xenophon Team at this year’s double dissolution will deliver it a powerful position in the Senate, and potentially a say in a finely divided House of Representatives,” ABC election analyst Antony Green said in a story from the national broadcaster at the weekend.

It’s not just Labor that is worried. The Liberal Party’s concerns are focused more on the lower house, where there are three seats that could, with preferences, conceivably go the way of NXT.

They are Sturt, where the sitting member is Christopher Pyne; Mayo, Alexander Downer’s old seat, where Jamie Briggs, who was pushed to resign from his portfolio for inappropriate behavior towards a member of the Australian diplomatic corps; and Hindmarsh, whose member is Matt Williams.

This may shed some light on why the ALP appears to have dumped its dirt file on the desk of Christine Lacy at The Australian, whose readers are very much in the blue corner at election time. Lacy is a veteran (and good) business journalist, who has returned to writing after a stint in the dark side (public relations) — so she will know good dump, pardon the expression, when she sees one.

In a forensic piece in last week’s Australian, where Lacy’s day job is a business gossip columnist, she effectively smeared anyone who had anything to do with one of the most egregious politically driven, government-backed attacks on Australian citizens in living memory.

Melrose, by all accounts, had committed the mortal sin of having a business partnership with former ACT attorney-general and government-sanctioned lawyer-turned-whistleblower Bernard Collaery. Various other people had their names dragged, and the truth be damned, into the spotlight.

While it was Alexander Downer who is alleged to have signed off on the extrajudicial spying on an another sovereign nation, the Coalition was only a follower in stitching up our newest, poorest neighbor in its battle to gain control over its internationally recognised natural resources.

The exploitation of East Timor was in fact started by Labor. The infamous boundary line was, in fact, cooked up by none other than former Australian foreign minster Gareth Evans. It was he who famously clinked champagne glasses with Ali Alatas, the foreign minister in the infamous Suharto dictatorship.

None of this should surprise anyone much. In Australian politics these days, any sense of decency or obligation to our poorer neighbors get chucked out the window for political expediency. Australia, these days, stands for not very much at all.

So is it any wonder that a good number of the people of South Australia are preparing to punt the major parties in favor of a bloke who appears to actually have some principles?

One would be inclined to take a bet, too, that the slimy tactics of ALP national secretary George Wright in letting this particularly cat of the bag could well come back to bite him, and the politicians he seems to control, on the arse.

Whichever way one reads the polls, there is one constant: the major parties are on the nose. Others who seem to strand for something, such as NXT, are set to benefit. In this case, it seems they are on the right side of history.

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As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.

Jess
Singapore

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