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May 24th 2016 print

Christian Kerr

A Not-So-Cunning Plan

The rationale for this election was that it might just produce a more agreeable mix in the Red Chamber. Given that Apple Isle motormouth Jacqui Lambie stands a fair-to-good chance of surviving, and sundry odd sorts with her, the Turnbull logic no longer seems quite so compelling

jaquie jackiyIn her first weeks in Parliament, Jacqui Lambie chose to tell us much about herself, not least her taste in large men and fatter wallets, but it was only last night she raised her teenage brush with the law. “That scared the hell out of me, to be honest,” the Senator told Lateline.

Ever since those first few weeks Lambie has scared the hell out of most of the electorate – the 6.38% of Tasmanians who actually voted for her notwithstanding. But, given that so much political reporting now regards Parliament and parliamentarians as a form of reality TV, she is now a substantial national figure. A substantial national figure better known for the outrage she brings to detailed debate, but substantial nonetheless.

While Ricky Muir, her fellow beneficiary of the whirls and eddies in 2013′s flow of preferences, remains wary of the media, Lambie is always up for it. Up for it in more ways than one is the impression. Lambie has been responsible for some of the more melodramatic Canberra subplots, from comments on her love life to the matter of her son’s drug troubles and her claim to Aboriginality.

Give her credit, she has played both warrior and victim with equal aplomb, which is why she was on Lateline, driving around her hometown of Burnie and speaking with political correspondent David Lipson as the cameras rolled.  There was the usual bogan guff. Wouldn’t you know it, her favourite song just happens to be George Thorogood’s Bad to the Bone – even though she didn’t seem to know the lyrics!

She has put her runners on, she said, “I used to have my slippers on, but I’ve got these blokes following me, so I thought I’d better not.” And so it went.

Why does this matter? Lambie says, “I’m so busy, I haven’t even had time to think” about whether or not she’ll be returned to the Senate.  But wiser heads have pondered the question and they think she may well – particularly now that the quota has been lowered by the Prime Minister’s decision to make it a double dissolution. Name recognition will be a crucial factor, given the new voting laws. The government is unlikely to win more Senate seats and could actually go backwards. The same with the Greens. Labor will probably pick some up. Nick Xenophon could win as many as three in South Australia. Bob Day may get up. David Leyonhjelm can’t be ruled out. Lambie has a good chance of being returned, the auguries suggest, perhaps along with former Palmer United colleague Glenn Lazurus from Queensland.

Just think how emboldened they will be. Just think what Xenophon, Lazarus and Lambie will mean for balanced budgeting – and for special-interest politics. Just think of the pleading populists they’ll embolden.

What was that about being scared?