Sat, Mar 11, 8:25am by Staff Writer
Having secured his power base within parliament in the latest federal election, anti-gambling political crusader Senator Nick Xenophon now has his sights set on South Australia’s lower house.
Multiple media outlets, including The Australian and ABC News, have reported that Xenophon has launched a new political party – known as Nick Xenophon’s SA Best – to field more than 20 candidates for state office.
The organisation of a new state party is the next step for the 20-year political veteran, one intended to build on the momentum gained in last year’s federal election, when the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) captured three of South Australia’s seats in the Senate as well as one on the Lower House.
In a statement announcing the creation of his South Australian party, the Adelaide native was not shy in pointing out that the current political winds have shifted toward his particular brand of centrism:
“It’s very hard to break the Liberal-Labor duopoly in this state, in this country; it’s kind of like being up against Coles and Woollies, but I think that South Australia does have a history of backing those from the political centre as they have in the past, and I think this will be the election that it will happen.”
“Every politician should be worried if they ignore the will of the people and the concerns of South Australians and that’s why this election will be a pivotal election. For the first time ever, there’s actually going to be a real choice between the Liberal and Labor parties in this state and that’s a big deal.”
Having served in the South Australian Legislative Council as an Independent for more than a decade between 1997 and 2007, Xenophon is already well-acquainted with the state’s local political arena. Running on a strict anti-pokies platform, Xenophon rose from political obscurity to become the first Independent to claim a seat on South Australia’s legislative council.
His federal NXT party also garnered widespread support throughout South Australia in the most recent federal race, earning 21.7 percent of the Senate vote. In 2013 that number stood at 24.9 percent, which managed to outpace the Labor party.
Speaking with the Australian Financial Review, Xenophon discussed positioning the nascent SA Best party as a viable alternative to the traditional two-party system:
“There’s been a real disconnect. I think both of the major parties have atrophied and haven’t been able to respond to the big changes going on.”
“It’s like a Punch and Judy puppet show. It’s been good theatre but without delivering any real solutions.”
Liberal party stalwart Steven Marshall, who serves as the South Australian Leader of the Opposition, told The Australian that Xenophon’s divide and conquer tactics were not suitable for South Australia’s state-oriented issues:
“I like Nick, but he has no solutions for the problems we have in South Australia.”
“He can’t form government, and what we really need is a majority government that can drive a reform agenda that can get the basics back in South Australia and deliver a more prosperous future.”
The state’s 47 lower house seats will be contested in March of 2018, and Xenophon has stated that SA Best plans to field ‘up to two dozen’ candidates. Those candidates are expected to hew closely to Xenophon’s long-held opposition to gambling, especially pokies provided in the pub setting.
Last December, the South Australian state government moved to cut the maximum allowable wager on pokie machines in half, from $10 to $5.
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