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Nick_Xenophon

Nick Xenophon

Nicholas (Nick) Xenophon, originally Nicholas Xenophou, (born 29 January 1959 in Adelaide) is a South Australian barrister, anti-gambling campaigner and politician. No Pokies, the name of his independent ticket in the South Australian Legislative Council, garnered 2.9 percent of the statewide vote at the 1997 state election electing himself on preferences, and 20.5 percent at the 2006 election (or 2.5 quotas), which was unexpected by political commentators. He was elected to the Australian Senate at the 2007 federal election, again from the same pool of voters in South Australia, however he only received 14.8 percent. This was still over one full Senate quota, gaining election without the need for preferences. With current numbers in the Senate, Xenophon is one of the balance of power Senators. Whilst his original 1997 platform was No Pokies, he since has been an advocate in many other areas.

Pre-political life

Xenophon attended Prince Alfred College, and studied law at the University of Adelaide, attaining his Bachelor of Laws in 1981. While at University he was for a period a member of the Young Liberals, who helped him secure the editorship of the student newspaper On Dit through vote-rigging; an incident Xenophon says he regrets and helped turned him off party politics. In 1984, he established and became principal of his own law firm, Xenophon & Co. which deals solely with personal injury claims. In this field he became successful, and between 1994 and 1997 he served as president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers' Association. After legislation was passed in 1992 by the Bannon Labor government that saw the introduction of poker machines into South Australia in 1994, the increased incidence of problem gambling came to Xenophon's attention in his legal practice.

Political career

1997 state election

At the 1997 South Australian election, Xenophon stood for the South Australian Legislative Council under an Independent No Pokies ticket, advocating the reduction and abolition of pokies (poker machines). He received 2.9% of the vote on a quota of 0.34, by count 1101 he had received the majority of micro-party preferences to a quota of 0.77, and then to 1.08 from Grey Power preferences. This made Xenophon the first Independent elected to the Legislative Council in 60 years.

During his time as a sitting member, Xenophon has been an activist for a range of issues aside the elimination of pokies, speaking out on consumer rights, essential services, the environment, taxation, and perks for politicians. Xenophon was also vocal in the Eugene McGee hit-run affair, becoming an advocate for the victim's wife, with public opinion eventually forcing the Kapunda Road Royal Commission that led to harsher laws for hit-run offences. He is best known for his many media-friendly publicity stunts that have gained him both deep respect and ardent criticism. Xenophon has also suffered severe health difficulties that at one stage forced him to take leave.

2006 state election

Xenophon stood again for 2006 state election amid media speculation that he would struggle to be re-elected with the major parties preferencing against him. Despite this, he ran an aggressive campaign described by some commentators as 'anti-political' and received over 20% of the vote, enough to not only be re-elected himself, but also to elect the second No Pokies candidate, Ann Bressington.

The result was unprecedented in Australian political history; an Independent had never before been so significantly endorsed statewide. His Legislative Council vote of 20.5 percent was 5.5 percent short of the vote recorded by the Liberal Party, with some polling booths Xenophon polling higher than the Liberals. Xenophon outpolled the Liberals for the upper house in the electoral district of Enfield. Xenophon's vote at the election came approximately equally from both major parties. This series of events led some commentators to call Xenophon the new "third force" in South Australian politics.

2007 federal election

On 11 October 2007, Xenophon called a press conference at the Adelaide Zoo in front of the giraffe enclosure, declaring he would "stick his neck out for South Australia" by announcing his resignation from the South Australian Legislative Council in an attempt to gain election to the Australian Senate at the 2007 federal election. His platform consisted of anti-gambling, pro-consumer protection, attention to the water crisis, ratifying Kyoto, opposition against what he calls a decrease in state rights, and opposition to WorkChoices.

Following the announcement, ABC election analyst Antony Green had already stated that Xenophon would easily win a seat, with Centrebet speculating he would begin on a favourable $1.50 for and $2.70 against. Nick Minchin had "urged people not to vote for Mr Xenophon", with the Liberal Party's 2006 upper house vote only 5.5 percent higher, and polled lower than Xenophon in some booths. Although the quota is higher in the federal upper house, Xenophon could have lost half of his 20.5 percent vote and still gained election on preferences. By this time the Greens and Family First had also indicated they would preference Xenophon. There were also predictions he could repeat 2006, gain two seats, and potentially hold the balance of power.

Unlike the state upper house where he ran under the ticket of Independent Nick Xenophon - No Pokies, his name did not appear above the line as part of the party name. No Pokies is not a registered federal party, meaning he was represented only by a letter above the line, with voters having to search for his details. This required more effort with How To Vote cards in order to get elected. An AEC spokesman stated that to be represented above the line by a letter, a non-party group of at least two members must be formed. Mr Xenophon declared rules made by major parties were "stacked against independents". The senate ticket order was drawn on November 2, with Xenophon drawing last spot, Group S, with voters able to select one of two tickets containing differing preferences. Ticket 1 was a "left of centre" ticket, (Greens, Democrats, Family First, Labor and Liberal, in that order), while ticket 2 was a "right of centre" ticket (Family First, Greens, Democrats, Liberal, and Labor, in that order).

Xenophon had initially canvassed the idea of running for the Division of Sturt as an independent with the Labor Party around April. Xenophon however stated that it was never a serious option. Labor sources supported his decision to run for the Senate, hoping he would emerge as a "Brian Harradine". Xenophon said he only considered the move a few weeks before his announcement, dismissing reports he and Labor knew for six months, stating that his conversation with Christopher Pyne was 'just a joke'.

After controversy broke out as to who should replace Xenophon in the state upper house, the state Labor government eventually agreed with Xenophon that his third candidate on the ticket, former valuer-general John Darley, should be appointed as Xenophon's replacement. Ann Bressington also had an extraordinary turn of face, lashing out at Xenophon during the joint sitting, questioning his integrity and suitability for federal parliament. Bressington claimed Xenophon demanded she contribute $50,000 towards his campaign expenses (for which Bressington had to take out a loan), mismanaged campaign funds, implied that he had made requests to State Treasury for illegal funding, and that she was ignored by Xenophon once she entered parliament. Xenophon denied these claims. Bressington also questioned why Xenophon had avoided the media scrutiny that other Politicians are subjected to, alluding that many of his core 'anti-politician' promises warranted further investigation.

Xenophon had lodged a complaint regarding political advertisements claiming he would not support a rollback of WorkChoices laws, which was likely to lead to legal action. The advertisements were alleged to have been released by the AMWU.

Xenophon's final stunt before the election was walking a large mule down Rundle Mall.

Xenophon received a primary vote of 14.78 percent (with one in five voting below the line), a swing against him of around six percent from 2006. His vote secures him around $300,000 in electoral funding. His addition resulted in holding the balance of power in the Senate along with the Australian Greens and Family First. Xenophon has also indicated his plans to work closely with coalition renegade Barnaby Joyce.

From highest to lowest, Xenophon's vote came from: Boothby (19 percent), Sturt, Mayo, Hindmarsh, Adelaide, Makin which were above his statewide vote, and below were Kingston, Port Adelaide, Wakefield, Barker, Grey (9 percent).

Xenophon has indicated general support toward Labor's sweeping changes to Mandatory detention in Australia.

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