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Saint Nick Xenophon of South Australia

By Malcolm King - posted Thursday, 9 June 2016

Disillusionment with the two major political parties will be a key a factor in South Australia as the Federal election draws near.

In a clear case of state politics affecting Federal seats, the SA public will preference Senator Nick Xenophon - who has promised little and delivered the same - over the main state and Federal parties who have put the 'Nothingness' in Jean Paul Sartre's 'Being and Nothingness'.

South Australia is different. While most other states under the star spangled Union Jack have joined the 21st century, and have long since buried the hatchet against each other (unless poked by News Corporation or the AFL/NRL), SA still suffers from a substantial insecurity complex.


In Adelaide we give praise to the farmers and lawyers who wrote one of the most boring constitutions in history, giving rise to the Federation, because without it, financially, we'd be up faecal creek without a paddle.

We pray every Sunday that the forces of globalisation don't destroy the arbitrary creation of economic and legal units we call Australian states. Because if they do, we're going to have to form a committee, create a couple of citizens' juries and write letters to The Advertiser. We'll actually have to do something beyond sucking 30 per cent of unearned monies from the GST horizontal equalisation formula.

In South Australia, Saint Nick is like Crusader Rabbit and the Ninja Turtles all rolled in to one (you won't read or hear a word said against him in SA – and I'll get to that too). He is political Teflon. He's a mate. Dinky Di. True blue and ridgy didge. And when it comes to media stunts, he is the master. I've seen senior journalists with 30 years' experience, melt under Senator Xenophon's charisma and style. He's the guru of the one liner, the quick gag.

Many years ago I was a senior media adviser for a pack of drongos who, after I left, thought it a good idea to destroy themselves and the party in public. As we were a Senate based party, each Senator had defined portfolios, some of which included white anting the other Senators. All good fun.

The point I'm making is that no one Senator can possibly have a position on everything. The reason is that people get in to politics because they're passionate about saving the whales, or digging up minerals or lining the pockets of mates in the Australian Industry Group or the Business Council of Australia. Believing in a just and fair Australia, as Xenophon does, is good but so does my Labrador and Pauline Hanson.

Speaking out on everything, from anti-free trade to helping (and failing) to stop residents of a caravan park being evicted, isn't possible, even working 24 hours a day. In the fast flowing stream of the 24-hour news cycle, you're just one bear snapping at salmon as they jump up stream. Xenophone is 20 bears. He's everywhere. Media omnipresence. That's why I call him Saint Nick.


Xenophon was elected to the South Australian Parliament in 1997 on a No Pokies platform. He went Federal in 2007, winning a whopping 14.8 per cent of the state's Senate primary vote.

His new federal party, the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), said it will fight the gambling lobby, fight for Australian jobs, products and services, introduce strong anti-dumping measures and institute tougher and more comprehensive whistleblower laws. It's all good stuff. He could write for the Byron Bay Echo. Snuggle up to Julian Assange. But he's also a warrior for the manufacturing sector – an AMWU king hitter. Really? Because he has absolutely no background in manufacturing or heavy industry. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

What Saint Nick represents is the rise of populism in Australian politics. He has modelled himself on Brian Harradine. I can't think of another politician that has turned back progressive thinking as much as Harradine. But he was popular. Like Billy Hughes' line on conscription was popular – for a while. Even so, Saint Nick voted for the failed Same Sex Marriage Act, which would have given Harradine a heart attack.

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About the Author

Malcolm King is a journalist and professional writer. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide. He runs a writing business called Republic.

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