By Henry Belot, Melbourne
The Australian Senate is commonly regarded as a dull arena in Australian politics, long overshadowed by the melodramatic House of Representatives. The results of Saturday’s federal election have all but ensured this will no longer be the case.
With a record number of parties contesting the Senate, the flow of preferences between parties has been convoluted, confusing and controversial. It has led to situation in which Senators have been elected despite claiming as little as 0.22 percent of the initial vote.
Beyond colour and character, the make-up of the Senate may cause headaches for newly installed Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who will have to work with inexperienced and controversial Senators to pass legislation.
Despite loosely sharing a centre-right orientation and having little if any experience in state or federal politics, the six new members of the Australia Senate come from widely different backgrounds.
Ricky Muir – Australian Motor Enthusiast Party
Mr Muir made headlines for not only becoming a Senator, but for reportedly featuring in an amateur kangaroo poo throwing fight in which a grown-man was ‘dacked’ and another man spat at the camera.
Mr Muir has been a member of the Australian Motor Enthusiast Party for only three months and considers himself an “ordinary, everyday Australian” – kangaroo poo and all. Despite claiming only 0.52 percent of the primary vote (11,390 votes), Mr Muir has been elected according to preferential voting deals made by the minor parties.
David Leyonhkelm – Liberal Democrats
Mr Leyonhkelm runs an agribusiness consultancy in Sydney and is known for taking a firm pro-gun stance; a rarity in Australia given the bipartisan support and international praise for Former Prime Minister John Howard’s ban on semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur massacre.
Mr Leyonhkelm has already sparked controversy by telling Ten Late News that US gun crime is predominantly due to “drug related black-on-black violence”. He also told 3AW Radio that he supported the right to carry concealed guns in Australia as a public safety measure.
The Senator was elected with 8.89 percent of the initial vote after drawing first place on the longest ballot paper in living memory.
Wayne Dropulich – Australian Sports Party
Mr Dropulich is a former Australian grid-iron player and civil engineer who has been elected as a Senator despite claiming only 0.22 percent of the initial vote (1,900 votes). Mr Dropulich formed the party earlier this year and reportedly relied on friends and networks to reach the 500 members quota for registration.
Little is known about the policy intentions of the new Senator as The Australian Sports Party has marketed itself as an anti-poltical organisation that is more interested in sport than politics.
Glenn Lazarus – Palmer United Party
When Glenn Lazarus was a rugby league star he was famously bestowed the nickname – “the brick with eyes”. It remains to be seen what nickname he will earn in the Australian Senate.
Lazarus represented Australia internationally and played in three premiership winning teams. He is regarded as one of the best front-row forwards to play rugby league in Australia. His policy intentions however, are not so well known.
Bob Day – Family First
Mr Day is a former member of the Liberal Party, a former South Australian public servant, and a plumber and builder. He is also an Officer of the Order of Australia, being bestowed the award in 2003 for services to the housing industry and social welfare.
Having failed to secure pre-selection by the Liberal Party for the seat of Mayo in 2008, Day joined Family First and was a Senate candidate in 2010 and 2013. The newly elected Senator is on record as being opposed to gay marriage, a climate-change skeptic, and unsettled by the idea women serving in the military.
Jacqui Lambie – Palmer United Party
Jacqui is a former Australian Military Policewoman who lives in Burnie in Tasmania – one of Australia’s most economically depressed regions. Despite failing to receive pre-selection by the two major parties and having never held political office, Ms Lambie is now a member of the Australian Senate.
Ms Lambie has been described as fiercely anti-greens and against same sex marriage. Her views have been formed by 11 years in the military and an eight year struggle with a spinal injury. Ms Lambie has also put her name forward for leadership of the Palmer United Party should Clive Palmer fail to win the House of Representatives seat of Fairfax.