Black Jack is back, disguised as Senator Xenephon
South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has formed his own party (Nick Xenephon Team - NXT), which may hold the balance of power in the Senate after the election.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. W&D senses a populist more dangerous than Clive Palmer.
Xenephon is an experienced politician, being elected to the Senate following an eleven year period in state politics. He stood on an Independent No Pokies* ticket for the SA Legislative Council, originally winning just 2.8% of the vote, but winning the preferences of other minor parties. From the very first he was an activist with a gift for publicity and popular causes.
He is smart and unashamedly South Australian. Readers will know that South Australia, like Victoria, has protectionist blood running through its veins. Free trade is an anathema. The mantra is that it is better to have rust bucket industries subsidised by we-the-taxpayer, with cushy jobs all round, than sharp competitive industries at the forefront of technology.
Xenephon wants Australia to withdraw from the recently signed free-trade deals. He said that his team would, "unashamedly use our votes to hold out for Arrium to get the help that it needs" after the SA based company was placed in administration.
His focus is on protecting manufacturing jobs, with subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and restrictions on foreign investment. He sees voters in those industries as his constituents. And the base of his newly formed party.
The populist mantra is that protectionism protects jobs, when every indicator suggests the opposite.
The populist mantra for independent Senators is, of course, to pass legislation that spends we-the-taxpayers' money. And oppose any legislation that restricts it.
Make no mistake, Nick Xenephon is all about Nick Xenephon. Just like Clive Palmer he has named his party after himself. Surely, like Icarus, he will fly too close to the sun. But by then the damage might have been done.
*Pokies: Poker machines. Yet another example of Australians adding 'ie' or 'ies' to the first three or four letters of any word the full extent of which might be too difficult to pronounce. Other examples include Chrissie, pressie or brekkie (or brekky). Christmas, present and breakfast are clearly such difficult words to pronounce.