SINK OR SWIM

Will Nick Xenophon’s new party tor­pedo the Lib­er­als and La­bor - or scut­tle his own rep­u­ta­tion?

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - words peter jean main pic­ture matt turner

HE’S al­ready helped bring down a sit­ting prime min­is­ter and early next month Nick Xenophon will un­veil the team that could end the po­lit­i­cal ca­reers of more politi­cians from the ma­jor par­ties.

The stunt-lov­ing, pok­ies-hat­ing in­de­pen­dent se­na­tor has spent more than a year cam­paign­ing to en­sure the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment de­liv­ers on its prom­ise to build 12 sub­marines at the ASC in Os­borne.

Af­ter the then prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott sig­nalled in 2014 that the Gov­ern­ment could buy sub­marines man­u­fac­tured in Ja­pan, Xenophon threat­ened to run can­di­dates against Lib­eral MPs in South Aus­tralia.

Con­cern among SA Lib­er­als about los­ing votes to Xenophon and La­bor over the sub­ma­rine de­ci­sion led many to back Mal­colm Turn­bull’s suc­cess­ful Lib­eral lead­er­ship chal­lenge. Now Xenophon is poised to un­veil a slate of can­di­dates to run for the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) at the 2016 elec­tion. Their suc­cess may in part hinge on how many sub­marines the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment de­cides to or­der and how much of the build is des­ig­nated for Ade­laide.

Xenophon re­ceived al­most one quar­ter of the statewide Se­nate vote at the 2013 elec­tion. But Turn­bull re­cently de­scribed him as a loner who might not be the right per­son to be lead­ing a team of MPs.

Crit­ics point to Xenophon’s fall­ing out with run­ning mate Ann Bress­ing­ton when they served in the Up­per House of State Par­lia­ment as ev­i­dence any po­lit­i­cal team he leads could prove to be un­sta­ble like the Palmer United Party.

Yet some (but not all) of his mi­nor party and in­de­pen­dent col­leagues in the Se­nate say he is easy to work with.

The worka­holic di­vorced fa­ther of an adult son guards the pri­vacy of his fam­ily fiercely. Vot­ers will de­cide next year whether to boost his in­flu­ence in Fed­eral pol­i­tics. To­day we ask friends, op­po­nents and close ob­servers, for their as­sess­ment of the man who would be king­maker.

PRO­FES­SOR CLE­MENT MAC­IN­TYRE,

Univer­sity of Ade­laide

The re­place­ment of Tony Ab­bott with Mal­colm Turn­bull has al­ready seen a new level of con­fi­dence among Lib­eral MPs and a big re­cov­ery by the Coali­tion in the polls. But if this rise is com­ing at the ex­pense of La­bor rather than the Xenophon Team, then we may well still see up­sets at the next fed­eral elec­tion. Ei­ther way, ex­pect both ma­jor par­ties to launch tough cam­paigns tar­get­ing Xenophon can­di­dates.

It is too early to say whether the for­ma­tion of a new po­lit­i­cal party bear­ing his name will suc­ceed or whether it will crash. But re­gard­less of the fate of his party, Nick Xenophon has been a strong ad­vo­cate for South Aus­tralia’s in­ter­ests, and has been a valu­able third voice for the state.

TIM COSTELLO, Friend, anti-gam­bling cam­paigner and World Vi­sion Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive

IT IS REFRESHING to have a politi­cian who lives as if the age of en­ti­tle­ment is over, doesn’t just spout it. He re­fuses to ever fly busi­ness class on the tax­pay­ers’ dol­lar; he does not use the Chair­man’s Lounge or bother with any of the other perks of politi­cians; he has been trans­par­ently hon­est about politi­cians’ su­per­an­nu­a­tion and he is tire­less in the hours he puts in.

This is really walk­ing the talk in the age of en­ti­tle­ment!

Nick has been a re­mark­able force for restor­ing the trust deficit that the pub­lic has with most politi­cians; this is a deficit which is even greater than the fi­nan­cial deficit and so-called “bud­get emer­gency”.

I think that goes to the heart of his suc­cess. Nick says what he does and does what he says. So peo­ple, or­di­nary peo­ple as well as his po­lit­i­cal col­leagues, know where they stand with him, know they can trust him. We need more peo­ple, more politi­cians like Nick who are not cap­tured or com­pro­mised, who re­main fear­less in both speak­ing the truth to power and in leg­is­lat­ing in the pub­lic in­ter­est with­out fear or favour.

The Se­nate, and there­fore our na­tion, would be all the poorer if Nick hadn’t been around to play the role he has in keep­ing the worst ex­cesses of the Ab­bott-Hockey Gov­ern­ment at bay.

Nick and I think alike on a lot of is­sues. I’ve worked closely with him on a num­ber of top­ics over the years and I al­ways enjoy our ex­changes and col­lab­o­ra­tions, al­though he’s definitely the king of the stunts! He’s per­suaded me to do a few things I never would have, like the time I found my­self car­ry­ing a goat up Collins St, and I thought to my­self: “How ex­actly did this hap­pen?” NICK XENOPHON has been a South Aus­tralian politi­cian for 19 years. In that time he has gone from be­ing a rel­a­tively un­known mem­ber of the State Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, to one of the high­est pro­file Sen­a­tors in the fed­eral par­lia­ment.

He built his name by play­ing to the me­dia and cham­pi­oning po­lit­i­cal causes that the ma­jor par­ties didn’t bother with. Since mov­ing from North Tce to the Se­nate he has shifted his pol­icy fo­cus and is now a key cross-bench Se­na­tor courted by both gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion.

There is no doubt that he has cam­paigned hard for South Aus­tralian in­ter­ests. Nick Xenophon’s pur­suit of a com­mit­ment over the lo­cal build­ing of sub­marines clearly spooked the gov­ern­ment and cer­tainly con­trib­uted to Prime Min­is­ter Ab­bott’s down­fall.

Now the ques­tion is can he trans­late his ex­tra­or­di­nary level of sup­port among South Aus­tralian vot­ers into a force that will see mem­bers of the new Nick Xenophon Team elected. While Tony Ab­bott re­mained as Prime Min­is­ter, the polls sug­gested that his party posed a real threat to Lib­eral and La­bor alike.

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