Are you a backbencher whose only claim to fame is occasionally being dragged out to ask a Dorothy Dixer during question time? A minor party senator sick of being crowded out by all these ministers? Take heart. It is within your power to make this right — and Crikey, as ever, is here to help.
Following on from this article about how to get your name in the paper if you’re a “lowly backbencher”, we have again asked media monitors Isentia for the top 10 most talked about politicians without a ministerial portfolio, and used it to make an updated list of tips and techniques for getting your name out there.
1. Spend a lot of time publicly sniping, wrecking and undermining
It should surprise no one that atop our list is former prime minister Tony Abbott. As Crikey noted earlier this week, and late last year, Abbott has never been shy about offering his helpful advice to his predecessor in any format and on any subject. This reached a surreal peak after his “five-point plan” manifesto led senior government minister Christopher Pyne to point out the many failures of the Abbott government (in which he had also been a senior minister).
Regardless, the media listened — giving him more than 62,000 mentions in the six months between September 1 and February 28 across radio, TV, print and online news outlets. It’s also worth noting that the period Isentia measured for us finished at the end of February this year, before Abbott waded so helpfully into the farrago over the Chinese extradition treaty and the closure of Hazelwood.
2. Put your name on it
Bringing up the second and third positions are the PH in PHON and the NX of NXT respectively: senators Pauline Hanson and Nick Xenophon. Neither is camera shy, but Hanson is the clear winner here, although perhaps not for the reasons she’d like. Populism doesn’t have to be popular when it comes to media attention; the unrelenting disaster of One Nation’s Western Australian state election campaign means that Hanson leaves Xenophon a distant third in that regard — 57,222 mentions to 34,875.
The ongoing fallout of PHON’s WA adventures (a recent Four Corners report springs to mind) means that any ground Xenophon may have gained by being the deciding factor in getting the government’s tax cuts through was likely erased by yet more bad press for Hanson.
3. Quit your party, or constantly complain about it (or both)
On the first sitting day of the year, Cory Bernardi, our fourth finisher, heroically resigned from the Liberal Party to from the Australian Conservatives, saying it was “time for a better way … The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, the lack of confidence in our political process, and the concern about the direction of our nation is very, very strong”. This is almost certainly true. Bernardi decided the best way to address that mistrust was for a career politician to rely on the resources of a major party to secure a six-year Senate term before immediately quitting that party to pursue his own ambitions.
Another member of the Coalition’s permanently disgruntled hard right is George Christensen, who comes in at No. 6. Christensen has been an outspoken critic on a number of Coalition policies, going so far as to draft a letter of resignation that never got sent, and he has conceded it’s possible he’d ditch his party in his increasingly One Nation-friendly seat of Dawson. While he committed to sticking with the Nats (for now), he did step down from the whip role.
4. Just get on everyone’s nerves
Some politicians sit at the intersection of a few of these categories (our previous two could easily fall under this heading, for example). But surely no politician owes quite so high a percentage of their media appearances to just plain annoying people as Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm, our No. 8. Whether it’s implying the childcare workers of this country are unworthy of a pay rise because their job is nothing but “wiping noses,” pointing out people shouldn’t be proud to be poor, or calling an elderly constituent a “bimbo,” Leyonhjelm has never shied away from demonstrating his commitment to free speech in the nastiest ways possible.
The poisoned icing on this spoiled cake came in the immediate aftermath of the Bourke Street Mall tragedy, when he thought the deaths of three people — a further three, including a three-month old boy, were, at the time, in the process of dying — was a good opportunity to bring up gun control, one of the only actual policy positions people associate with him. In what would generously be described as “incredibly clunky satire,” he tweeted “probably one of those semi-automatic assault cars” as the news was breaking. He then directed the many, many people he angered to the Liberal Democratic Party “Hurt Feelings Complaint Form”. Knee-slapping stuff.
5. Accept the odd donation, but mainly be a laugh riot
Sam Dastyari might well have not made this list, but for a scandal regarding Chinese donations that forced him to step down from the Labor frontbench in September last year. But who even remembers any of that now? He’s just so much fun! What with the amusing videos, and the amusing book title polls, the way he calls Bill Shorten BAE (like young people do!) and makes Bill Cosby jokes (like young people wouldn’t!), and the swearing and the more swearing, the memes, and HSPs and the Elvis singing. Who could stay mad?
6. Make it personal
Whether you love her or hate her — and given the variety of views, and the passion with which she evidently holds them, you’ve almost certainly found yourself feeling a bit of both — our ninth-place entry, Jacqui Lambie appears to be nothing if not sincere. Whether she’s calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country, or speaking emotionally of her son’s problems with drugs, or her own experiences on welfare, in opposition to cuts, Lambie’s heart rarely retreats from her sleeve. Her candour stands out, and it gets her attention.