The Australian Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team square off for third-party status. By Karen Middleton.

Greens, Xenophon eye jaundiced major party voters

When a magazine fashion spread saw Greens leader and Victorian senator Richard Di Natale dubbed “The Black Wiggle”, the man in the dark turtleneck was unapologetic for either his sartorial inclinations or his bid to secure seats at Labor’s expense.

“If Australians want progressive values represented in the parliament, then the only choice is to vote Green,” Di Natale told The Saturday Paper.

The Greens have run an aggressive campaign, aimed at expanding their presence in the house of representatives beyond Adam Bandt’s seat of Melbourne, especially targeting the seats of Batman and Wills.

No longer satisfied with just the senate crossbench, the Greens hope to cement themselves as a party of future government. They seek to exploit the divisions in Labor ranks, particularly on the treatment of asylum seekers. 

“The Greens are the only party that stands up for what matters,” Di Natale said. “That means tackling climate change to save the [Great Barrier] Reef and offering a better way for innocent people seeking asylum. Your vote is powerful when you join with the Greens to make Australia a fairer, more caring and prosperous nation.”

The Greens have laid out terms for negotiation in the event of a hung parliament. They want strong climate laws, including science-based targets for emissions reduction and renewable energy; a “better way” for people seeking asylum in Australia, and the end of offshore detention; a national anti-corruption watchdog and political donations reform, including full public election funding; Medicare-funded dental care; a national environmental protection agency; an end to high-end tax concessions; replacement of the same-sex marriage plebiscite with a parliamentary vote; and a treaty with indigenous Australians.

Challenging the Greens for third-party status is the election campaign’s greatest wildcard – the South Australian senator Nick Xenophon.

The Nick Xenophon Team hopes to take the Liberal-held seat of Mayo but is also a chance in Boothby, Grey and Barker. In the senate, he could outpoll Labor, as he did in 2013, and win up to four South Australian seats.

Nick Xenophon wants voters to “reject the toxic policies of Liberal and Labor and go to the political centre”.

“I will focus on Australian-made and Australian jobs and tackle predatory gambling – because the major parties won’t – making sure our taxes aren’t wasted and making sure we get good delivery of services through the prism of fairness,” he told The Saturday Paper.

After trying to legislate to limit penalty rates, he’s changed his mind. “I shouldn’t have touched penalty rates,” he says now. “Let the umpire decide.”

In parliament, his first focus would be to seek a rescue package for SA steelmaker Arrium, and help for struggling car manufacturers to diversify. He also wants limits on foreign investment – and incentives for Australian investment – in agricultural food production. He wants more money for SA roads; progress for the Gonski education changes, especially teacher mentoring; preservation of Medicare and emphasis on preventive health; mandatory drug rehabilitation pilot programs; better interstate power grid co-ordination and support for a solar thermal plant; the Murray-Darling Basin Plan implemented; and incentives for business migrants to settle in SA.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 2, 2016 as "Greens, Xenophon eye jaundiced major party voters".

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Karen Middleton is The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent.

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