October 21st 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Reality of family unit must underlie tax system

EDITORIAL Christianity today: the challenges ahead

CANBERRA OBSERVED Xenophon: a Mr Fixit or a political yo-yo?

DRUGS POLICY Science elbowed aside in rush for latest silver bullet: 'medical marijuana'

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE Decoys to revolutionary laws redefining sex and marriage

FOREIGN AFFAIRS What is the way out of the Catalan crisis?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Our barmy Army: all politically correct

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The child as weapon in Family Court process

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Faiths and the global future

KOREA Hermit Kingdom versus the Land of Morning Calm

MUSIC Hi-tech lo-fi: Resistance is futile

CINEMA Blade Runner 2049: A cypher unlocking a mystery

BOOK REVIEW The rebels

BOOK REVIEW An attempt to break through the fog


HUMOUR More excerpts from the forthcoming revision of Forget's Dictionary of Inaccurate Facts, Furphys and Falsehoods


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

TRANSGENDER MARRIAGE: George Christensen calls Parliament's attention to activists' end-game

EUTHANASIA Victoria mistakes killing for compassion

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Xenophon: a Mr Fixit or a political yo-yo?

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, October 21, 2017

While there have been many big name independent senators in Australian politics over the past couple of decades, no one has successfully grabbed the limelight on so many diverse issues as Nick Xenophon.

And now he proposes to return to home to South Australia and turn that state’s politics on its head.

Former Flinders University political scientist Dean Jaensch says Labor and Liberal parties in South Australia are in a state of panic over the prospect of Xenophon running in the coming SA election.

“Over almost 50 years of watching politics, I have never before seen a single backbencher dominate politics in this state to the extent that Nick Xenophon is doing at the moment,” the retired psephologist wrote in the Adelaide Advertiser recently.

“His decision to depart from the Senate and lead his SA-Best party in the state election next March has caused political convulsions almost across the board. The reason is straightforward. On previous evidence, Xenophon’s party is likely to pick up over 20 per cent of the first-preference votes, putting him in position of kingmaker.

“All he needs to do in any of the 47 electorates is run second when the votes are counted. The likelihood is that he could then win the seat on preferences from whichever of Labor or Liberal was in third place.”

Jaensch says the return of Xenophon to SA may signal the end of the two-party system there and the beginning of a more complicated and unpredictable three-party system.

Xenophon was first elected for a six-year term to the Federal Senate at the 2007 election and was re-elected at the 2013 election. He then formed NXT just before the 2016 election.

Prior to entering the Federal Senate, Xenophon ran successfully in the SA Legislative Council on the back of his No Pokies Gambling Movement.

However, the anti-gambling crusade that propelled him into politics has had only mixed success in actually doing anything about the problem, and Xenophon has subsequently launched himself into all manner of other causes, from water to civil liberties to submarines to crusades against the Catholic Church and Scientology.

In fact, if there is an issue in the public sphere and Xenophon finds a position that is different to the major parties, he will invariably be tempted to take it.

Xenophon does not have a political philosophy as such, merely a differential from Labor and the Coalition.

Without the responsibilities of actually having to do anything, Xenophon has been nothing short of masterful in adopting any and every populist position mostly without ever having to deliver on his view.

He is a superb media performer and is constantly on the phone to journalists proffering an opinion, making him one of the most identifiable politicians in the country.

The Australian newspaper’s Chris Kenny was particularly scathing of the Xenophon phenomenon in a recent comment piece following Xenophon’s announcement of his planned return to SA.

“Here is a bloke who has dabbled in energy policy in SA for two decades while its Labor Government, encouraged by Coalition and Labor federal policy, has turned the state’s energy system into a running joke – the nation’s most expensive and unreliable electricity network,” Kenny wrote.

“Here is a bloke who came into politics to tackle poker machines. Yet, when he entered the State Parliament, there were about 9,000 machines in the state; and there are about 13,000 now.

“Since he switched to Canberra, Xenophon has played himself into a range of issues, particularly defence projects and River Murray entitlements. It is not clear whether he has had any success on these issues as his appeals for industry assistance and water rights have been echoed most of the time by both major parties.”

Kenny argues that Xenophon’s major success has been building a political brand – a pitch that has been aided by the two major parties essentially being “rubbish” for the best part of a decade.

“The trouble is that he offers no governing alternative. He has been an irritant in the Senate, like many others, using his protest vote mandate to negotiate on a range of issues and claim his moments in the spotlight. But there has never been any coherence; any plan,” Kenny wrote.

In fact, Xenophon has been a wily negotiator, waiting till the last moment to extract a deal from the government of the day.

In some ways the Turnbull Government will be relieved that he is returning to South Australia, because, despite his populist tendencies and frustrating ways, Xenophon will leave a vacuum because he was in the end someone whom the Government could deal with.

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