Ricky Muir never wanted to be a politician, until he lost his job and discovered the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party on Facebook, just in time for the 2013 election.
The working-class man rode the preferential wheelings and dealings of “back-door man” Glenn Druery all the way to the Senate, despite never having met the motoring party’s leaders or having any non-car related policies on which to build a platform.
Nicknamed the ‘Roo Poo Senator’ because of the video that emerged of him engaging in a kangaroo feaces fight, he has consistently branded himself as an every-day Australian, tackling everything from a recently outlawed shotgun (which he claims is harmless) to how to get involved in motorsports on the cheap (tax dollars well spent, IMO).
While it’s easy to be enamoured with his clumsy but well-meaning attempts to push his motoring platform on his blog, appropriately titled PLTCLY INCRCT (his capitals), we might be seeing the last of Muir thanks to Malcolm Turnbull’s recent changes to the way in which state Senators are elected.
Unless Bob Day, who himself was elected with only a quarter of the votes usually required to obtain a Senate seat, can succeed in his long-shot legal challenge in the High Court, Senators at the next double dissolution will be elected without the ability to direct their preferences that led to the election of several micro-party representatives.
After struggling through a marathon 28-hour debate that saw Nick Xenophon emerge in his banana-decorated pyjamas only to be rebuked by House attendants, the Coalition and the Greens managed to pass legislation last month requiring voters to number all their preferences above or below the line at future elections, theoretically giving the electorate more control over where their votes end up.
If a voter’s number one choice doesn’t get enough votes to secure a seat (usually 14% of the state but in a double dissolution only 7%), then that vote will pass to their second preference, and so on down the list. Since 1948, it’s been possible for micro-parties to lump all their votes together to elect a single candidate like Ricky Muir, who gained his seat at the last election after receiving only .5% of the Victorian vote.
Instead, it’s possible we’ll see another ‘genuine Aussie bloke’ take his place. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch’s new party ‘Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party’ is building up steam (as if Hinch hasn’t enough coming out of his ears already) on an anti-peadophile platform and looks set to take Muir’s seat at the promised double dissolution.
What could be wrong with preventing the minor parties and independents from combining their received votes to elect a candidate like Muir, who received his 14.3% quota from 23 different micro parties including the Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party, the Climate Sceptics, Wikileaks Party and the Australian Stable Population Party?
One thing is it makes it that much easier for Turnbull to call a double dissolution, knowing he’s likely to get rid of at least some of those pesky crossbenchers that keep blocking his legislation.
Labor senator Penny Wong complained that the legislation would purge the senate of minor parties and independents, calling it a “dirty little deal”.
The fact remains, we may never see another Roo Poo-slinging Senator, who was brave enough to stand against the Government’s ABCC legislation, even if it meant losing out on the $1 million in salary and benefits he’d receive if he completed his six-year term.
Without Muir, we’ll have to rely on Nick Xenophon for our laughs (yeah, right), but what’s not so funny is that Xenophon may end up with the balance of power in the Senate because of the changes, likely to sweep up at least three seats in South Australia.
This means he’ll have more sway, rather than the power being spread over the more diverse bunch of Senators that usually force the government to negotiate or risk having their legislation blocked.
For better or worse, the best interests of “every-day” Australians, as represented by countless micro-parties and shotgun-toting speed racers, may no longer have voice in our Parliament.
*Words by Transgressions’ favourite political journalist Mat Drogemuller. Follow him on Twitter @matdrogemuller