H

GQ (Australia) - - SOURCE -

e held a press con­fer­ence with a gi­raffe to show how far he’d stick his neck out. He walked a mule down Ade­laide’s Run­dle Mall to demon­strate his stub­born­ness. He showed up to Cap­i­tal Hill with a sub­ma­rine cake to re­mind Tony Ab­bott of his com­mit­ment to build 12 subs on home soil. He fanged a minia­ture toy car into South Aus­tralian par­lia­ment to protest against po­lit­i­cal car perks. Then, a few months ago, he ridiculed a marathon sit­ting of Sen­ate by show­ing up in his py­ja­mas, clutch­ing a pil­low. But be­hind the cul­ti­vated im­age of a prankster, Nick Xenophon is a se­ri­ous politi­cian. And on July 2 we’ll learn how se­ri­ous the 57-year-old for­mer lawyer, and in­vet­er­ate stir­rer, is. Many pun­dits are tip­ping this year’s dou­ble-dis­so­lu­tion spill to land the mav­er­ick South Aus­tralian the bal­ance of power in the Sen­ate – out­right con­trol of the cham­ber and up to four seats for his Nick Xenophon Team. Or, as he wants them known, the ‘We’re Not As Bad as the Oth­ers Party’. To­day, wield­ing a sta­ple gun and wise­crack­ing be­tween shots, Mr X is his typ­i­cal quick­sil­ver self, in a dervish of Dad jokes (“Chin up? Which chin?”) and nerve­less en­ergy. He talks of days play­ing The Clash records on stu­dent ra­dio, cry­ing in court­rooms de­fend­ing the weak, miss­ing his 6’5” son Alek­sis, get­ting tear-gassed in Malaysia, try­ing to or­der cof­fee from Grindr and de­fend­ing his rigid $100 clothes cap to GQ – proudly wear­ing a Tar­get suit, Lowes shoes and Kmart undies. As he calls for 10 sec­onds si­lence to mourn the pass­ing of Prince, it gives us pause to con­sider Nick Xenophon’s rise. And rise. Raised by Theo and Georgia (“I’m 50 per cent Greek, 50 per cent Cypriot, 100 per cent Aussie”), he grad­u­ated from law and joined a sub­ur­ban firm spe­cial­is­ing in com­pen­sa­tion cases. Di­vorced from his phys­io­ther­a­pist wife, San­dra, in 1995, Xenophon’s anti-poker ma­chine stance made him the first in­de­pen­dent in 60 years to be elected to South Aus­tralian par­lia­ment in 1997, with 2.86 per cent of the vote. By 2006 he had 20.5 per cent of the elec­torate (more than La­bor could man­age) and the cult of Xenophon was thriv­ing. Buoyed by suc­cess­ful cru­sades for as­bestos vic­tims, food la­belling, wa­ter se­cu­rity and on­line gam­bling re­form, he went fed­eral in 2008, in­tro­duc­ing him­self to the Sen­ate by declar­ing to be a kin­dred spirit of Woody Allen (“Life – full of lone­li­ness, and mis­ery, and suf­fer­ing, and un­hap­pi­ness… and it’s all over much too quickly”), evok­ing left-wing warhorse Tony Benn (“First they ig­nore you, then they say you’re mad, then dan­ger­ous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find any­one who dis­agrees with you”) and clos­ing with his per­sonal credo: “I would rather go down fight­ing than still be stand­ing be­cause I stayed silent.” And so it has gone to the point where he now jan­gles the keys to power. As we sit down, one thing is clear – Mal­colm may have mis­placed his mojo, but Nick still has the ‘X’ fac­tor.

GQ: For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Bob Hawke al­ways said Aus­tralians get the gov­ern­ment they de­serve – will this even­tu­ate in 2016? Nick Xenophon:

Who knows? Ev­ery­thing’s been turned on its head. We’ve seen a Queens­land gov­ern­ment with a reg­u­lar ma­jor­ity swept out of of­fice with mas­sive swings of up to 25 per cent. There are a lot of ner­vous peo­ple out there. It means no politi­cian, me in­cluded, can take their seat for granted.

GQ: Hand on heart, what’s the best out­come for Aus­tralia at the next elec­tion? NX:

Well, maybe I’m be­ing self­ish but I’m be­ing self­ish for the coun­try. I’d re­ally like to be in a bal­ance of power sit­u­a­tion, where the pol­i­tics of the sen­si­ble cen­tre is where it’s at, and it’s not about left or right, or red team and blue team, but it’s about get­ting a de­cent out­come for peo­ple. There are very big is­sues at stake at this elec­tion.

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