Who let real people into parliament?

A handful of incoming senators who don’t quite fit the mould of Canberra’s cultured elite are already ruffling some feathers.

This election has produced a rupture in the political class. The comfortable cliques of politicians, public servants and journalists that run things are a little alarmed at the number of outsiders who will join the new Senate from July 1 next year. 

There is likely the be a roo-poo chucking car enthusiast, Ricky Muir, former military policewoman and Palmer United Party candidate Jacqui Lambie, PUP’s rugby league star Glenn Lazarus, gun-toting libertarian David Leyonhjelm, Perth engineer and Sports Party candidate Wayne Drupolich, and possibly a return of salt-of-the-earth racist Pauline Hanson.

Should we be alarmed, or excited by this prospect? If the people’s house, parliament, lets real people in, surely anything could happen?

Two in the above list are causing waves already, but for different reasons. 

Muir has not said, or done, anything to indicate what policy positions he will take. By all reports he is a 100 per cent, bona fide outsider whom the major parties will court. 

If he can just be brought into the fold, into comfortable dining at the right end of the Members Dining Room of parliament house, into the soft leather seats of his chauffeured ‘Comm car’, then he should be controllable. Teams of suave public servants and political staffers will work hard to convince him that his bush-bashing ways don’t represent the ‘people’, but their own favourite party/policy does. 

Journalists are playing it with a straight bat. Muir, I’m almost certain, cannot tell you the proportion of robusta and arabica beans in the coffee of any number of nice cafes in Canberra’s Manuka or Kingston. He does not appear to drink bottles of boutique beer with lemon shoved down their necks. And it’s pretty clear that he’d rather crack a coldie beside a campfire in the Great Dividing Range than drink free wine at yet another gallery opening.

So let me say what the others won’t. WHAT A BOGAN!

However, if he wins a seat, I hereby offer to drive him to a seedy Canberra tavern I know, in my pride and joy – a 1977 XC Falcon – and interview him to find out what he really thinks. (Yes, I too carry a bogan gene.)

The other troublemaker is Tasmanian would-be senator Jacqui Lambie, who has said a few policy-like things already. 

Indeed, one quote from her in Fairfax Media cuts through Tony Abbott’s arguments in favour of his $5 billion paid parental leave scheme better than any before: “This is absolutely ridiculous. You've got pensioners around me living off dog food, and who can't afford heating. It makes me wild."

Lambie looks, at first blush, to be no friend to anyone in the upper house. She joined the miners’ side of the dispute in the Tasmanian Tarkine wilderness battle, pitting herself against the Greens. And she has warned Abbott that she will be an even greater “pain in the rear-end” that Pauline Hanson ever was. 

The nation has major decisions ahead of it. The Abbott Coalition wants to scrap the mining and carbon taxes, and overhaul the complex web of legislation creating the national broadband network. 

It wants to recreate the controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission and change the flexibility arrangements of the Fair Work Act. 

And it wants to slash spending from some areas while splashing out on others. Has anybody noticed, for instance, that the cost to taxpayers of the NBN was only the interest bill on the bonds issued to cover its construction (not a large sum at around a 3.5 per cent bond rate), whereas the paid parental leave scheme actually costs the budget $5 billion, paid ultimately by big companies who will pass the cost on to customers. 

To outsiders, these kinds of changes might be supported. But then again they might throw roo-poo at them and skip the chamber to drink beer with a weird bloke with a battered old Ford.

There is great danger when the political classes are so discomfited – but also great hope they will pull their fingers out and reform for the people once more. 

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