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Senator X – a rolling stone gathers no policies

By Malcolm King - posted Monday, 18 July 2011


There is no doubt that Senator Xenophon has the South Australia public and media in his pocket.

More than 150,000 voters and 50 journalists whose contact books automatically open to the letter X can't be wrong, can they?

"My political philosophy is summed up by the myth of Sisyphus, the story of this poor bastard that was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill. And I feel like I'm rolling that boulder up to the top of the hill, never getting to the crest. But I'll still keep going," he said recently in the media.

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Unfortunately Senator Xenophon will have to keep rolling that stone a little longer as the Greens have taken the balance of power in the Senate. It's a kick in the guts for South Australians who placed so much faith in the Anti-Pokies campaigner.

Senator Xenophon entered politics because as a lawyer in the south of Adelaide, he saw clients blowing hard won claims and superannuation payouts on pokie machines.

But we need to look closer at Mr X's legislative record as some suggest, at least on the issue of Pokies, that Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie has achieved more in his 10 months in Federal Parliament than Senator Xenophon ever did.

If getting legislation passed is the touchstone of a success for a politician then Senator Xenophon is in real trouble as none of his Private Members Bills (at this stage) have been enacted in to law.

A list of Senator Xenophon's Private Member's Bills can be found at http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Browse/Results/ByPrivateMembers/Bills/Current/XENOPHON/0

Only 15 private member's bills or private senator's bills introduced into the Australian Parliament since 1901 have become law. In the parlance, it's a 'big ask' to get a Private Member's Bill through.

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Tim Costello, a prominent social justice advocate, calls Senator Xenophon the Greek Woody Allen. Unfortunately Senator Xenophon has had as much success as Woody Allen in the Westminster system and his 'calls' for action have produced little of substance.

Even so, he has gotten a Senate inquiry up into pilot training and general aviation safety. He was also instrumental in getting better shield laws to protect journalists and their sources, which as a joint Private Members Bill with Andrew Wilkie, might pass later this year.

Senator Xenophon also forced the Government to release the NBN Business Plan, which was a victory for transparency.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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