Between 2008 and 2011, the balance of power in the Australian Senate was held by two erratic and headstrong minor party senators. They looked like this:
As of three weeks ago, the balance of power in the Australian Senate is held by eight erratic and headstrong minor party senators. They look like this:
You take one down, you pass it around, you alienate the other seven by negotiating with it and plummet unceremoniously in the polls. When both Labor and the Greens vote against them in the Senate, the Government will need the support of six of the eight crossbenchers to get legislation passed. We all know that Australia’s Senate preference system is the result of an elaborate practical joke played by Antony Green in the 80s, but who are these august octuplets expunged from its unknowable loins? And, to add a splash of clickbait to a tedious piece of amateur political analysis, what’s a fitting track to represent each of them in my Crossbench 2014 Mixtape? So here are the first four of the eight deadly Senators, presented in descending order of how cool their names are.
David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democratic Party
The taxman’s taken all my dough,
And left me in my stately home…
This gun-toting Liberal Democrat easily takes out the coolest name stakes. His moniker means “lion’s helmet” in Norweigian, which is apt, given that he has the generous peace-loving spirit of a Viking warlord. David Leyonhjelm is a self-described libertarian opposed to big government, which translated from Tea Party means that he wants to torch the social safety net so that he can pay less tax. Unlike his fellow freemarketeers in the Liberal Party, he’s at least shown some ideological consistencies with his support of Same Sex marriage and opposition to the repeal of tax-cuts for the poor.
Nevertheless, Leyonhjelm opposes any minimum wage and has a boatload Ayn Rand-inspired economic policies that make Joe Hockey look like a Communist. He also possesses a vast hoard of firearms and said that John Howard “deserved to die” for enacting gun control in the 1997, so he’s quite the charmer. Pretty damn racist, Daveyboy has the rare honour of having cheated his way to power with two separate scams (which I rambled about last September). Firstly he registered four different sounding puppet parties to funnel preferences to one another. Then he called one of them “The Liberal Democratic Party” to steal the votes of confused Liberal voters, which is exactly what happened when he ended up at the top of the ballot in NSW. Both of these, by the way, are arguably in contravention of the strict AEC laws on party registration. Here he is not looking at all evil.
Glenn Lazarus (Palmer United Party)
I don’t know what it is but there’s definitely something going on upstairs.
A former rugby player nicknamed “The Brick with Eyes” is Clive’s alpha P.U.P.py in the Senate. The most interesting thing he’s done so far is compare Campbell Newman’s absurd and draconian anti-bikie laws to Nazi Germany, but it’s too early to tell whether he’s a couragous defender of civil liberties or just a fan of organised crime. Some people expected the prop forward to be either a meathead marrionette or a Mal Malinga, but they may have judged too soon. There’s rumour on the political grapevine that Lazarus has been receptive to environmentalists and is the reason for #Palmgore and the preservation of the Renewable Energy Target and Clean Energy Corporation. If that’s true, old bricky deserves a pat on the back for Big Clerv’s climate conversion. But that didn’t stop him from voting to repeal the Carbon Price, so unfortunately Glenn still won’t be able to look his little grandbricks in the eye.
We live in a country where more people care about sports than politics and any top-tier athlete who can string a sentence together can nab a seat in Parliament if they fancy a second career. Lazarus might be a Machiavellian genius or he might be Palmer’s golem, but as a centrist, a populist and a footballer he’s bound to stay sweet in the polls. In fact, compared to the cackling villainy of the Government the whole chaotic neutral Palmy army are looking like veritable heroes. That’s the trouble with living under a jockocracy. You feel a debt of relative gratitude to the big meathead guy who occasionally stops vicious bullies from bashing and robbing you, even if said meathead is a bit of a douche himself. (Feel free to borrow that metaphor next time you need to explain the problematic necessity of a temporary welfare state to a preteen anarchist.)
Don’t, don’t explain,
Lots of little victories take on the pain.
Nick Xenephon is the Varys of the Australian Parliament. He’s neutral, cunningly retains power as rulers rise and fall and managed to talk Kevin Rudd out of burning Canberra to the ground with wildfire. I was going to call this post “Xenephon and the Seven Steves”, but thought that it might jeoprodise my recently attained double-figure monthly site-views. I’ve heard a lot of people joke that his name sounds like “xenophobe”, but it actually means “foreign sounding” in Greek; which makes “Xenophon” an autological word and you a xenophobe. He’s into include fighting the sinister Church of Scientology and pork barreling for South Australia, though he avoids the word ‘barrel’ for obvious reasons.
Xenephon’s main platform is to enact poker machine reform, but the larrikins in the gambling lobby have managed to foil his plans and go on farming misery unabated. He rode into power on an impressive state vote of 24.9% (you only need 14.3% to be guaranteed a seat), and unlike some of his colleagues who came in well under 1% he’s no unrepresentative swill. Nick seems to pride himself on not taking sides, but when one half of the Senate is a centre-right viper’s nest of cowardly opportunists and the other half are the Liberal Party that’s not always an admirable position to take. When the Senate had to vote on climate action, the most significant legislative issue this generation will face, Xenephon was more interested in talking about whether Australian army boots are made in Australia. But what did he do when push came to shove and he had to finally place his name on one side of the ledger? Did he side with the forces of ignorance and greed or the besieged defenders of reason and humanity? Neither, he was mysteriously sick. I told you he was cunning.
Jesus for the jugular – one at a time
Ain’t nobody ever gonna ever have to die
John Madigan is as exciting as a Kinder Surprise without the surprise. He’s just vaguely eggish. I read a transcript of his latest 7:30 Report interview and had aged badly by the time I was finished. A Democratic Labor Party Senator from Victoria (well done guys), Madigan is a fundamentalist Christian with extreme anti-abortion beliefs, perhaps in solidarity with his fellow ovoids. Elected in 2010, he’s allegedly on cordial terms with Xenephon but hasn’t had a chance to deliver on his hard-boiled socially conservative platform until now. The DLP is the ALP’s embittered little brother, and this former blacksmith has old-school centre left welfare state economic policies. Madigan and Leyonhjelm are thought to be one guaranteed vote for the Government between them, the former being economically progressivish but socially right-wing, the latter being the other way around. That said, the boiled boilermaker from Ballarat hasn’t spoken out as stridently against this Reagan and ray-guns budget as might be hoped, and was one of the dirty half-dozen who voted down the carbon tax. Maybe Abbott has already poached him.
UPDATE: In the great Christian tradition of splinter groups splintering, Maddo left the DLP in September and became an independent. Though just as much of a “pro-life” misogynist whacko as predicted, he was one of only three Senators other than the Greens to oppose ASIO’s draconian new powers. Don’t I have egg on my face.
To be continued…