03 May 2015

Senator Nick Xenophon picking team to stand in Lower House seats at federal election

Nick Xenophon expects to reveal candidates within weeks.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is in talks with potential candidates and preparing a party platform as he starts acting upon a threat to target federal Liberals over the future of building submarines in South Australia.
Senator Xenophon, whose group won 24.88 per cent of the Upper House vote at the 2013 federal election, told the Sunday Mail he expects to reveal candidates within weeks.

He and 2013 Senate running mate Stirling Griff have interviewed 450 people, from whom they say they will choose candidates for Lower House seats in SA, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

The SA Senator said he wanted to be prepared for a federal election later this year, rather than next, due to continuing speculation of an early poll being called by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

But Senator Xenophon did not specify candidate or policy details, other than repeating that he would pressure the Liberals to build Australia’s future submarines in SA.

In February, he threatened to run candidates in Liberal-held seats and said his party would preference against the Liberals in the Senate — rather than evenly split the preferences — if the submarine deal did not result in an SA build.

“I meant what I said. It wasn’t a threat it was a promise,”

Senator Xenophon said.

Federal and state opinion poll results this year have put the independent or others category as high as 20 per cent in SA. his indicates continuing strong support for Senator Xenophon and his Nick Xenophon Team (NXT).

Liberal and Labor strategists concede the popular Senator has the potential to throw both major parties’ election plans into chaos if he can transfer support to Lower House seats.

Some dismiss his plans as an attempt to increase Mr Griff’s Senate vote when he stands again, because Senator Xenophon is not up for re-election at the next poll.

But Liberals, in particular, warn they will not ignore the threat and will target his candidates on policy positions.

Supporters view Senator Xenophon as a champion of transparency, accountability and issues in which major parties ignore the interests of everyday voters.

But detractors argue he adopts populist policy positions, unencumbered by the responsibility of having to govern or produce lasting and broad legislation.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews in February revealed German, French and Japanese builders would participate in a 10-month ‘competitive evaluation process”, which would consider proposals for designing and building the new submarines.

Senator Xenophon has pressured the Federal Government to build at least 70 per cent of the boats here and urged against a speculated deal with the Japanese to build them there.

He did not rule out standing in Labor-held seats but said the prime purpose was to maximise pressure on the Liberals over submarines.