Jacqui Lambie’s model of politics works. This is why
Tasmanian independent senator Jacqui Lambie portrays a no-frills, no-fuss politician. And it works for her. Photo: AAP
It’s a good thing Jacqui Lambie has the hide of an elephant. She would have to, given the animosity she’s now receiving for helping the Morrison government to repeal the ‘medevac’ law.
Just a short week ago, the independent senator for Tasmania was feted by progressives as an outstanding if rare example of political integrity. This was for helping the Labor opposition to block the government’s so-called union-busting legislation.
This week she’s being denounced by mostly the same people, either as a gullible puppet of the Morrison regime or a despicable turncoat.
Of course, the reality is that Senator Lambie is neither of these things. In truth she’s a well-intentioned, passionate, stubborn and mostly average Australian, doing her best to comprehend highly complex problems before shouldering responsibility for making decisions that can have lasting impacts on other people.
I’ve had 10 journo’s put to me unsourced rumours about what I’ve proposed to the Govt – but I can’t comment on any. Only 3 offices know the condition – mine, the PM’s & the Minister. Everyone else is just speculating. #auspol
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) November 27, 2019
Most politicians get to coast through their entire parliamentary careers without having to bear such individual responsibility, or be required to work out what it actually means to be in the national interest.
But the iron laws of mathematics have placed Senator Lambie in such a position. Without her support, it’s almost impossible for the government to pass legislation that’s opposed by Labor and the Greens.
You might recall a previous ‘average Australian’ with a critical vote in the Senate, Ricky Muir, who also made an invidious decision to support a conservative administration, by helping the Abbott government to re-introduce temporary protection visas for asylum seekers.
Likening the conundrum to being forced to choose “between a bad decision or a worse decision,” Senator Muir said at the time it was a position he did not wish upon his worst enemy.
Yet I don’t recall Senator Muir receiving the same level of outrage that Senator Lambie is now facing.
Senator Lambie is being labelled a sellout because she ‘did a deal’ with the government in return for supporting the repeal. Somehow the revelation that she can be transactional has relegated her to being ‘just another politician’.
People have such short memories. It’s not that long ago that the Tasmanian Senator was being hailed as gutsy and principled for demanding that her state’s public housing debt be forgiven in return for support on the government’s proposed income tax cuts.
Then there’s suggestions the confidential nature of the ‘deal’ makes it even more reprehensible. As opposed to all those unacknowledged secret deals done by politicians?
At least Senator Lambie disclosed to the Australian public that she had sought and received a concession from the government in return for her support.
STATEMENT ON MEDEVAC
In light of considerable community interest in my position on the Government’s legislation to repeal the Medevac provision, including the thousands of Australians who have petitioned me directly, I wish to outline my final position on the bill.#auspol pic.twitter.com/Ink1iBU4cn
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) November 27, 2019
The bile and anger now being directed at the everywoman senator is one of the strongest indicators yet of how much our politics has become broken.
The hyper-partisan nature of political debate, where you are either with us or against us, is making it almost impossible for authentic, unpolished and unscripted politicians to compete with cookie-cutter MPs who do little more than toe the party line and recite the message of the day.
We claim to prefer the politicians who are ‘real’ people, but when they stray outside our partisan boundaries we write them off and make them pariahs.
The irony of course is that Senator Lambie is lot more like the average Australian voter than any other politician in Parliament today. She’s not from the political class, has an inherent distrust of the establishment, has struggled to raise a family and has not always been able to make ends meet.
She also has uninformed, prejudiced and politically incorrect views about a lot of things.
In short, Senator Lambie is not a tidy political package. Which is why mainstream voters connect with her.
There’s a reason votes love Jacqui Lambie – she presents a ‘I’m just like you’ front. Photo: AAP
She presents an opportunity for the nation that has not yet been recognised.
Instead of hurling outrage and disappointment at the Senator, causing her to stubbornly dig in, we should redouble our efforts to expand her understanding of the issues that face Australia, and the best ways to solve them.
Better awareness of such solutions would then equip Senator Lambie to inform and change the minds of the voters who listen to her.
Who better than an imperfect, authentic politician with the hide of an elephant to start the repairs on our broken politics?