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Tough road ahead for rookie

He always paid the rent on time before he became a home owner with his wife. And when the landlord came to visit, the rental property was always clean and tidy. Out in the paddock and in the dairy with the cows at milking time, Victoria's likely new senator Ricky Muir was a diligent and capable worker. One who was punctual and trustworthy.

He always paid the rent on time before he became a home owner with his wife. And when the landlord came to visit, the rental property was always clean and tidy. Out in the paddock and in the dairy with the cows at milking time, Victoria's likely new senator Ricky Muir was a diligent and capable worker. One who was punctual and trustworthy.

"He was a bloody good employee," said Nambrok dairy farmer Graeme Robinson. "Ricky never once ever let us down."

Robinson is uniquely positioned to provide a character reference for Muir, the man who from mid-2014 could share his time between his home among the lush green dairy paddocks of Gippsland and the combative and often brutal big house on the hill in Canberra. Because not only did Robinson employ Muir, he also leased him a house.

"He was extremely reliable. He never ever was behind in rent. The house was kept immaculate," Robinson said.

The straight-talking Robinson is impressed by the fact that Muir sought work from him at a time when he already had a job. Much of it was weekend work, often up to about 15 hours a week. Regularly, Muir was in charge of the farm when the owners were away.

Robinson speaks sincerely of a family man - he is a father of five - who is an "all-round nice bloke".

But the question to be posed, given his possible future parliamentary career in the Senate after last week's federal poll, is whether the 32-year-old's qualities - and of course his work and life experience - are sufficient preparation for the pressure-cooker demands and intense scrutiny that accompany a career in Federal Parliament.

The media interviews the former sawmill manager has given in the aftermath of the election suggest that he isn't a seasoned performer in front of the camera. The question is whether he can develop the political savvy required to thrive in the battlefield of federal politics.

The internet reveals that he can throw kangaroo poo while camping in the bush, but can he throw his weight around if elected to the Senate chamber?

In the pubs, paddocks and hamlets in the picturesque pocket of Gippsland where Muir resides, his likely senatorial role is a keen talking point. Fairfax Media spoke to many locals during a visit this week to Denison - where Muir lives - as well as nearby Maffra, Tinamba, Nambrok and Boisdale.

Many questioned the voting system that can reward a candidate who received so few primary votes with a place in Parliament, and the accompanying annual salary of almost $200,000. At the latest count Muir's Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party had received about 12,600 first preference votes in Victoria for the Senate.

Tinamba dairy farmer Hans van Wees, who does not know Muir, gave the Senate voting system a particularly blunt assessment. "If that bloke gets elected it shows you how pathetic the Australian electoral system is," he said.

"I think that the way the preferences get moved around, people can get into positions of power who nobody wants in power. Nobody had ever heard of the bloke until 48 hours ago."

He likened Muir's expected success (many Senate number crunchers are saying he will get elected) to a famous moment from the 2002 Winter Olympics. "It's a bit like doing a Bradbury isn't it," he said, referring to Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury, who won a gold medal after all the other competitors fell over shortly before the finish line.

Van Wees also offered what perhaps could be considered sage advice on how Muir should behave in Canberra. "Trust nobody when you get there," he said, before adding, "enjoy it while you can".

Van Wees, who has lived in Australia for 17 years but cannot vote here, conceded that Muir's election would deliver benefits for the local area. Many other locals repeated this view, hoping (whether they voted for him or not) that he would push for motoring-related projects such as road repairs, road improvements and projects such as the duplication of the highway between Traralgon and Sale.

Many wished him luck and expressed hope he makes it. Some wished him luck even though they criticised the Senate voting system.

But just one of them, fellow motoring enthusiast Alex Ward, declared he had actually voted for Muir.

Ward, a 33-year-old father from Newry, is perhaps a hyper-enthusiastic motoring enthusiast. He likes four-wheel-drives, classic cars, British cars and formula one racing. He spends plenty of time restoring cars and in fact owns almost 50 vehicles, seven of which are currently running.

He said that people should not complain about the situation that has emerged in the Senate if they voted "above the line", the method that ensures preferences are distributed according to the way the parties or candidates wished.

Ward, who does not know the local man who now stands in the centre of the national political focus, rejected the notion that a "wacky" result had emerged from the vote.

"I think that if people want their votes done properly, they need to vote below the line. And if they trust voting above the line then they trust voting above the line - and they can't complain if it doesn't go the way they want it to go. He got the votes fair and square," he said.

Ward said he was not aware of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party before polling day, but gladly voted for it when he discovered it on the enormous Senate ballot paper.

"The Parliament is supposed to represent all Australians, not just professional politicians, so it's good that one has slipped through. Because the professional politicians on all sides have made it their own. So it's great an ordinary Australian has got through," Ward said.

"I think that most of the senators in there are just following what their party wants them to do, and he's not going to have to answer to anyone. So he's going to be truthful in what he actually votes on, and what he says. So I think that's going to be a bit refreshing. I don't know what his views are on a lot of things, but at least they're going to be his views," he said.

If he makes it to the Senate, Muir will have plenty of opportunities to reveal those views. He will have to get used to doing a lot of talking, to constituents, to other parliamentarians, to media, and in the Senate chamber. If one has to be delivered, it will be a keenly anticipated maiden speech.

This week, after first agreeing to talk to Fairfax Media, the possible politician turned gun-shy. Perhaps it was understandable, given the sudden massive interest in him and his family. But it was also a chance lost to enunciate his views and philosophies to those who didn't vote for him but who want to know more about what he stands for.

Standing in the rain on the roadside by his four-wheel-drive he declined to be interviewed, repeatedly asking for privacy. "At this stage nothing is official, and I would like my privacy respected," he said.

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