Niche politics

3 Jul 2018

If David Leyonhjelm was a major party politician, his career would be finished after the events of the last week. But instead, his prospects of re-election might have been given a new lease of life.

The Liberal Democrats senator for New South Wales, who dumped his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage before jumping ship from the Shooters’ Party in 2005, first arrived in the Senate in 2014 as a result of name confusion with the Liberal Party and a lucky placement at the top left of the NSW Senate ballot paper, which reaped him 9.5 per cent of the primary vote at the previous year’s election.

In early 2016 the Turnbull government changed the Senate voting rules to eradicate inter-party preference tickets. Having received bad advice — his chances of re-election, having built some sort of profile, were actually better under the new rules than the lucky dip of joining a preference-swapping group — he and his party gave financial support to Family First senator Bob Day’s High Court challenge to the changed voting system.

Luckily for him (and Day, for a while), the challenge failed, and Leyonhjelm squeaked back with a total party vote of 3.1 per cent. But that was a double dissolution, with the quota roughly half the size needed at a half-Senate election. And a half-Senate election is what he’ll face at the next general election.

It’s easy for political obsessives to forget that some of the characters we write and talk about are little-known outside the political bubble. Leyonhjelm fits that category. But with Monday night’s appearances on Network Ten’s The Project and ABC TV’s 7.30, his profile around the country has been boosted — at least for a while.

Read the full article on Inside Story.

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