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Krusty the Clown and the rise of Mr Xenophon

By Malcolm King - posted Tuesday, 20 November 2007


I recently returned to my home town, Adelaide, after working interstate and overseas for 20 years. Adelaide is a small, beautiful city. Part of its charm is to find people still sitting on the same bar stools in Rundle Street as when I left.

What is new is the rise of Nick Xenophon, 48, the self-branded Mr X. The former SA upper house ‘No Pokies’ MP, and now independent Senate candidate, is the talk of the town.  Mr Xenophon is gambling that not only will he be elected but also that the numbers in the new Senate will be 'hung', with his vote being the decider. In poker terms, it’s the political equivalent of drawing a full house and then a royal flush.

He is modeling himself on former Tasmanian Independent Senator Brian Harradine who, on occasion, had the deciding vote.  In October he told the Adelaide Advertiser:

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"I draw parallels with Brian Harradine in terms of his role of pushing to get the best possible deal for his state. I would like to take a similar approach."

Harradine, a former ALP Senator before he turned Independent was openly anti-abortion, anti-IVF and anti-gay rights. Mr Xenophon is not so reactionary - or at least I don’t think he is. One can't tell and that’s part of the problem. He’s everyman.

While Mr Xenophon draws inspiration from Senator Harradine, he told the ABC's 7:30 Report (31 October 2007) that it was the High Courts’ WorkChoice verdict (14 November 2006) that pushed him towards federal politics:

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" … last year the tipping point (was when) the High Court basically said that a Federal Government can override pretty well any state law".

The High Court said no such thing. The Court said in a 5-2 verdict for the Federal Government that in the specific case of WorkChoices, the Government was on solid Constitutional ground. But let’s not let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

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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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