Rainbow coalition: Australia’s colourful candidates

Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition yesterday won a commanding lower house majority, ending six years of Labor party rule. However, the makeup of the senate is yet to be decided. Senate votes take days, if not weeks, to tally, but early figures from the Australian Electoral commission suggest that several new minority parties might hold the balance of power.

In this case, the Australian senate could look decidedly more colourful in July 2014, when the newly elected senators would take their seats.

Clive Palmer (Getty)

Glenn Lazarus, a Palmer United senate candidate, was nicknamed “the brick with eyes” when he played rugby, and once posed naked with only a brick to promote a brick company.

Clive Palmer, who started the Palmer United party, has himself claimed a seat in the house of representatives. He is the multimillionaire owner of coal, iron ore and nickel assets, with plans to build a working replica of the Titanic and put mechanical dinosaurs on a luxury golf resort.

David Leyonhjelm, a Liberal Democrat and former veterinarian, may get a seat by virtue of appearing first on the ballot paper and thus winning the donkey vote, where voters fill in the preferences from top to bottom, without regard to their actual inclination. He has campaigned against Australia’s heavy regulation of gun ownership.

Nick Xenophon (Getty)

Independent Nick Xenophon succeeded in registering as a party to achieve listing “above the line”* on the ballot paper. He took a goat into Parliament on election day in 2006, to promote his slogan - “Don’t ‘kid’ around on election day”.

Ricky Muir, leader of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast party, was filmed taking part in a backyard fight with friends using kangaroo droppings. The party lists “mateship” and lower taxation as its core values. When Osama bin Laden was killed, Mr Muir tweeted, “Media is reporting that the person who ordered the 911 terror attacks is dead … what a load of shit, george bush is still alive!” He has also tweeted: “Marriage is a bond between a man and a woman only. The bond between a man and his car is just as important, and I’m here to protect it.”

His is not the only single issue party out there: the Australian Sports Party could be represented in the senate by Wayne Dropulich, a gridiron-playing engineer. The group focuses on “helping Australians live a healthy well balanced lifestyle through sport and recreation”.

Futher reading:

  • Voting *“above the line” means ticking one box for one party, and allowing the party to direct preferences itself. Only three per cent of Australians vote “below the line”: not that surprising considering the number of preferences – New South Wales had 110 options to choose from (and voting is compulsory in Australia).
  • Glenn Druery, a political consultant, has been helping to broker deals between some parties to help them make the most of the electoral system. This led to disputes over the “preference whisperer” and the Shooters and Fishers party that hired him.