AUSTRALIA
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Australian politics

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull finds himself in thrall to right-wingers as independents increase Senate presence

Turnbull called the election to get rid of hostile lawmakers from smaller parties but must now work with even more of them to push through legislation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 6:00pm

The party of a divisive right-winger who once claimed Asians were in danger of swamping Australia has won four seats in the nation’s upper house, setting it up as a political kingmaker, official results showed on Thursday.

The conservative government was narrowly returned to power last month, but faces a tough term ahead working with anti-immigration firebrand Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party and other cross-benchers – independents or lawmakers from minor parties.

Counting from the July 2 polls has now been completed for the upper house Senate with Hanson’s party securing four seats and the cross-bench blown out to 11 from eight before the polls.

It is a headache for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who called the election to get rid of hostile lawmakers from smaller parties but must now work with even more of them, needing their votes to push through legislation.

Hanson’s wish list includes a royal commission into Islam and zero-net migration, while she is against foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land. One of her senators Malcolm Roberts on Thursday reiterated his doubts about man-made climate change.

Her party’s rising influence comes as voters opted for change, disillusioned with the ruling conservatives and Labor opposition.

Other senators set to wield significant power include centrist independent Nick Xenophon, whose new party NXT has won three seats. Xenophon, a passionate anti-gambling campaigner, is in favour of protecting local industries and jobs.

Pro-gun, free-speech defender David Leyonhjelm regains his seat for the Liberal Democrats and supports lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government, and is rejoined by Family First’s Bob Day, whose party is against same-sex marriage.

Remember her? Anti-immigration firebrand Pauline Hanson on cusp of return to Australian politics

Leyonhjelm is no stranger to controversy, and has said Australia is a “nation of victims” because of its tough firearm laws, and once quipped that police earned being labelled “all cops are bastards” by football fans.

Joining them in Canberra is newcomer Derryn Hinch, an independent known as the “human headline”, a long-time journalist and broadcaster who has campaigned on justice for the victims of criminals and is calling for a national public register of convicted sex offenders.

Returning to the Senate is no-nonsense, straight-talking former soldier Jacqui Lambie, who once joked during a radio interview that she liked well-endowed men, a comment she later apologised for.

Making up the rest of the 76-seat Senate is the ruling Liberal-National coalition with 30 seats, the main opposition Labor party with 26, and the Greens with nine.