30 March 2016
by Atreyee Chowdhury

Xenophon gives it back after being compared to Donald Trump

Independent Senator for South Australia and leader of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) political party, Nick Xenophon, has not taken kindly to being dubbed as Australia’s ‘Donald Trump.’

The comment that he is “Australia’s answer to Donald Trump” by Jamie Edward Briggs, Mayo’s representative to the parliament, gave rise to a war of words pointing to deeper political compulsions as elections are getting closer.

Briggs observed that the similarities between US’s millionaire presidential candidate, Trump, and Xenophon are “uncanny”. News.com quoted him as saying, “Both are populists who play on fear claiming to be ‘anti-politicians’, whereas the truth is that both have been involved in politics nearly all their adult lives.”

Rivalry between Briggs and Sen Xenophon has heated up as Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) is making its national debut at this year’s Federal Election. The party is targeting Mayo, the seat of Briggs, and is fielding Rebekha Sharkie, a former employee at Briggs’s office, against him. Briggs had earlier resigned his ministry and moved to the backbench following a scandal.

In his response to being compared to Donald Trump, Xenophon responded that Briggs was apprehensive about NXT taking “on the duopoly.” Eager to put on record his political correctness, Xenophon used the comparison to clarify what he stood for. He said, “I find Trump’s views on migration, on Muslims, on war veterans, quite repugnant. I just think it is a sign of desperation from some of my opponents in terms of the way they’re worried about seats in South Australia.”

Briggs had earlier accused Xenophon of preventing globalisation in Australia and drew parallels to what Trump is proposing in the US. The Australian quoted him as saying, “While Trump’s major catchcry in the US election is that he will build a wall to keep Mexicans out, Xenophon’s campaign is in ­essence based on the premise that he can build a wall around Australia to keep globalisation at bay.”

However, Xenophon used the criticism to elaborate on what he thought about leadership and protecting national interests. He said, “All I want is for Australian politicians to stand up for the national interest in the same way governments do in the US, Europe and Canada, governments that have stood up for their national interest when it comes to the dumping low-cost products on our shores. That’s not building a wall.”

He completed his counter attack on Briggs by mentioning one similarity with Trump. He said, “One reason Trump has been doing so well is people are worried about jobs. While I hope he isn’t elected president of the US, I think he’s obviously struck a chord with Americans who are worried about job security and that’s an issue that transcends politics and personalities.”

Joblessness is one main issue on which Xenophon has been trying to build his political foundations. He has been consistently focussing on the lack of jobs and has been using all opportunities to highlight falling levels of employment. Responding to Christopher Pyne who called him the “Chicken Little of Australian politics,” Xenophon said Pyne was “looking at the state through rose-coloured glasses. He is in denial about the fact that in South Australia we have the highest unemployment rate anywhere in the country.”