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South Australia

Oct 6, 2017

Xenophon state shift will shake up politics in the rustbelt

Nick Xenophon has a real chance of inflicting major damage on both the Labor and Liberal parties when he takes them on next year at the South Australian state election.

Nick Xenophon is quitting the senate to return to South Australian politics, in a move with big ramifications for both the federal and South Australian arenas.

Xenophon has been in the Senate for nine years, for much of that time as a key swing vote on legislation — as well as period of, by his own happy admission, being a “feather duster” without legislative influence. But today he announced he would be running in the South Australian state election next March for a lower house seat, the marginal Liberal-held seat of Hartley. He’ll also be leading the SA-BEST team in, according to Xenophon, more than a dozen seats. Hartley is mostly within the federal electorate of Sturt, Christopher Pyne’s seat.

Xenophon’s third-party assault on South Australia poses real dangers for both the Labor and Liberal parties. Xenophon secured three Senate spots in the 2016 double dissolution election but also managed the impressive feat of seizing a House of Representatives seat from the Liberals, when Rebekha Sharkie won Mayo.

NXT polled nearly 22% in the Senate and 21% in the lower house in South Australia — a surprisingly consistent performance that suggests he can inflict major damage on both the government and opposition. Psephologists will now be rapidly recalculating their forecasts for the coming election to determine how many lower house seats Xenophon can potentially pick up, and his chances of securing the balance of power in the lower house and thus deciding who will govern.

In his time in the Senate, Xenophon has combined a brilliant instinct for publicity with a stubborn centrism and deep commitment to the anti-gambling cause that first propelled him into South Australian politics, and to protectionism, particularly on manufacturing and foreign investment. It was the electoral threat posed by Xenophon that helped push the Coalition into embracing a local build approach to Australia’s next generation of submarines and other vessels.

Most recently, Xenophon helped negotiate the overturning of most of Australia’s remaining media ownership restrictions in exchange for federal government investment in regional and small media. He was also an outspoken voice on civil liberties, and with the Greens has been a rare source of consistent scrutiny of intelligence agencies and proposals to give them greater powers.

Xenophon’s announcement comes ahead of next months’ determination by the High Court of whether he has been eligible for election to Senate due to holding British citizenship via his Cypriot father; if ruled ineligible, it would have been straightforward for him to engineer a return to the Senate. Now, however, it appears that the High Court will determine whether NXT’s Tim Storer is deemed elected in Xenophon’s place, or whether the party can appoint a replacement if Xenophon’s candidacy is deemed to have been valid.

His departure from the Senate leaves Stirling Griff, elected last year, as most the senior party figure and likely leader who will now guide the party in its negotiations with other parties on the fate of legislation in the Senate.

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21 comments

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21 thoughts on “Xenophon state shift will shake up politics in the rustbelt

  1. graybul

    Whooo! Is Nick’s surprise move on the chessboard of Australian politics first evidence of fight back against elite party / corporate power cabals or; a simple example of an ultra smart politician out to take advantage of circumstance to ‘grow’ personal power base at both state and federal levels? Nick has all the attributes/ skills/experience to initiate real change and his choice of state seat will clearly get up Pyne’s nose.

  2. BruceHassan

    I wonder if Xenophon’s return to State politics points to something I’ve suspected for a while – the policy vacuum in Canberra (apart from increasing personal surveillance and controls) means it is becoming increasingly pointless being a federal MP of any sort? Is the real action returning to the States – although more by default than through a concerted or reawakened reassertion of State/territory identities and institutions, as State politicians aren’t much chop either? Is the timeline something like Scotland – Catalonia – South Australia – Next?

  3. PaulM

    Bernard, do you think that your South Australian readers/subscribers appreciate your reference to the “rust belt”? It is the use of a derivative phrase from the USA, at best, a simple insult, at worst. BTW, have you kept abreast of the news from Melbourne. Car makers and component manufacturers dropping like flies. Will you refer to Melbourne as a rust belt, also? Time to leave your eastern States (Canberra even) ivory tower.

    1. Marilyn J Shepherd

      I agree, SA is the best place in the world

      1. Duncan Gilbey

        Well…heaps good, anyway.

    2. Gloria

      Such a parochial lot. It is the rust belt. You speak of Melbourne but at least Melbourne has other industries in the form of knowledge economies to keep it going. Oh and growth. SA hasn’t much other than a booming aged care sector and a few meth labs in some old Trust houses out in Lizzabef.

      Half the problem, actually most of the problem in SA is the inwardness of the locals and they miss seeing the massive structural economic issues the state faces. An attitude that manifests itself in a victim mentality – oh it’s the eastern states! They’re out to get us! Newsflash Radelaidians: it’s the eastern states who keep SA afloat, and SA is pretty much not on anyone’s radar as it doesn’t really contribute much to the Commonwealth other than wine and somewhere to blow stuff up out back of Woomera. Unfortunately decades of governments of both colours haven’t served the place well. The current government is by far the worst for the poor SA attitude, and the total absence of an opposition doesn’t help one bit either.

  4. bushby jane

    A key swing vote on legislation? By my reckoning he is a LNP voter, but manages to tack on some funny cheap bits to get publicity to entertain those who are watching. Sometime down the track you would imagine folks will wake to him.

    1. MJM

      Jane I share your thoughts. He is an LNP supporter who’d turn up at the opening of an envelope just to get his face in the news. And many of the remarks he makes either don’t bear close examination or are changed after he’s managed to screw the government for a “better” offer. I think Bernard’s summary is way too kind.

      1. Duncan Gilbey

        I thought Bernard’s summary was a job appllication.

    2. John Robertson

      “Folks will wake to him” we can only hope.

  5. Marilyn J Shepherd

    Problem is Nick is the flim flam man who thinks that even a terrible deal is better than no deal so long as he is seen as king.

  6. Always Carefree

    “… his chances of securing the balance of power in the lower house and thus deciding who will govern”
    Well the last bit of that is easy. He’ll support the Liberals. Always does.

  7. AR

    The nation’s loss – lucky SA.
    What hope for the newby NXT without his wily experience in the halls of mendacity under the hill?
    Will they hang together or separately?

  8. Duncan Gilbey

    “…the impressive feat of seizing a House of Representatives seat … when Rebekha Sharkie won Mayo.”
    Nothing impressive about it. The good citizens of Mayo wanted to get rid of the vile Jamie Briggs but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Labor.

  9. CML

    Well I live in SA, and I hope Xenophon loses Hartley comprehensively. We just do NOT need the instability his election would produce. Show pony of the highest order, who has achieved little of value for SA or the nation.
    I have lived in several other states in Oz, and a couple of overseas countries for long periods…SA, and particularly Adelaide, is the best by a long shot.
    And Gloria…I refute almost everything you had to say…if you live here, and dislike SA so much, why don’t you move? If you don’t live here, who are you to judge us? As for the current state government…you have been reading too much crap from Limited News.
    Get a life!!

    1. MAC TEZ

      CML’s bumper sticker…”South Australia, love it or leave it !”

      1. AR

        It would include “Labor, even bumBoil Shernt, can do no wrong!”.

  10. Wallywonga

    yes, soft article on Mr X, then again he apparently did look after Crikey in his recent media ownership negotiations? Now looking a lot more like a self seeking power puff to me.
    And such an outbreak of parochialism again from this article.
    I would find the term “rust belt”quite offensive if I lived in SA – rust belt in America is really really uncultured white trash.
    Adelaide still probably has the best festival in Australia, and Jay Weatherall, probably the only political leader in this country that talks with any conviction.

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