The problem with this marathon election campaign is that all the runners are sprinters. The punters don’t consider any of the Party leaders as stayers and hence they are just as happy to back a few outsiders to look after their interests. In South Australia that means the enigmatic Nick Xenophon is being backed in across the board, but particularly in the Senate. There is no doubt that Xenophon has made a seemless transition from ambulance-chasing lawyer to camera-chasing politician over the twenty years of his political life. He has been very effective at creating a political career out of not being a career politician and few in the media or the parliament have dared challenge him along the way. There are a number of advantages of me being ’clickbait’ for the leftist press headlines but it is seldom helpful during an election. Even less so when everyone knows how strained the relationship is between the leader and I. Hence I decided to maintain media silence during the election so that no-one could blame me if things didn’t go as planned. On the whole it worked very well and allowed me to focus on assisting my colleagues in their re-election efforts.
All that came to a halt when Malcolm went on Q&A and didn’t raise an objection to me being likened to a Shady sheikh who thought it compassionate to kill homosexuals simply because I am opposed to redefining marriage. It was only in 2004 that the parliament unanimously upheld the same view I (and many millions of Australians) hold today. Perhaps they were all homophobes, dinosaurs, bigots or Muslim extremists which must be news to the likes of Penny Wong, Bill Shorten, George Brandis, Warren Entsch and Christopher Pyne. Now I am used to Q&A’s poisonous bias. Its host, the highly paid Tony Jones, once suggested live to air that I could create an Australian version of Golden Dawn, the Greek neo -Nazi party. When challenged, he insisted it was an innocent mistake, claiming he had never heard of a political party of that name. This begs the question of the wisdom of his hefty taxpayer-funded pay packet for being a political talking head, albeit one with a self-confessed lack of political knowledge.
The campaign trail saw me join the South Australian Liberal Senate team on extensive visits throughout our great state. Whilst acknowledging the challenges we face, the resilience of our citizens and the abundance of our potential is never lost on me. What’s holding us back is a state government focused on inner-city voters whilst seemingly determined to neglect the needs of our state’s wealth-producing areas. Health, infrastructure, industry, agriculture and mining in the regions have all been neglected under SA Labor. I suspect it would be much worse under a Shorten-led government. It reaffirms my belief that any federal Coalition government is better than a Labor one.
Perennial attention seeker Xenophon is at his startling best throughout this campaign. Lots of highly favourable coverage from the mass media, raising issues which he can do nothing about.Already he’s promised to overturn international IP laws because someone in America has Trademarked the name ‘Ugg’ for the sheepskin surfie foot warmers that only became fashion when buxom US celebrities were spotted wearing their gratis pairs. Perhaps X is on to something though. If we are to withdraw from the global IP agreements, maybe we could also withdraw from the United Nations and repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. I must ask him if he’ll back such positive moves. A couple of Uggs seems a small price to pay for such positive steps.
The other winner from this campaign appears to be Pauline Hanson. Another 20 year veteran of the political process, she has endured more than most of us that engage in the battle of ideas. However, her fortunes appear to have grown with the dismissal of conservative voters by official Liberal Party pollster, the eristic Mark Textor.His claim that the Party base have nowhere to go seemed to antagonise many of our traditional supporters. It was followed by a retrospective attack on their superannuation funds in the budget, driving those with ‘nowhere to go’ into the arms of One Nation and others. That utopian embrace was firmly felt when our leader stated that Hanson was not welcome in politics. Silly me, I always thought that was for the electorate to decide. After all, it was John Howard who said they ‘seldom get it wrong’.
But wrong they did get it according to the Prime Minister’s speech on election night. Labor’s Mediscare ‘lie’ drove the usual Turnbull supporters into the arms of One Nation, the Christian Democrats, Australia Liberty Alliance, Rise-Up Australia, the National Party and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party – all of whom improved their votes. Who’d have guessed Labor’s dishonest campaign would have that effect?
Now it seems the Liberal National Coalition will manage to form government either with the slimmest of majorities or via the support of independents. The Senate will be another matter with an even larger cross bench expected than the previous one we had a double dissolution to dislodge. It makes me wonder if Spectator Australia columnist John Stone punches well above his political weight. After all, he was the one who told conservative voters to send their message to the government by giving conservative minor parties a vote in the Senate. We obviously left those million voters with nowhere else to go. Somebody better tell Tex.
Cory Bernardi is the founder of conservatives.org.au