Australians Elect a Libertarian Senator


David Leyonhjelm
Liberal Democratic Party

While Americans have been a little preoccupied with the Middle East, Australians trooped to the polls this weekend, tossed out the Labor government in favor of the Liberal-National coalition, and, as noted at Reason 24/7, elected a libertarian to the Senate. David Leyonhjelm (that's his mug, to the right), representing the small Liberal Democratic Party, won the fifth out of six senate seats from the state of New South Wales. The candidate himself admits that his election may be a bit of a fluke, brought about by the oddities of Australian election procedures, but Leyonhjelm's election to the country's upper legislative house is secure in a year when several small parties won similar victories—some of them under odder circumstances than his.

Leyonhjelm's biography (scroll down) on the party website (which needs to be updated, folks. Hello! You won a Senate seat!), says that he started as a young Labor activist, working against conscription, switched to the Liberal Party over economic freedom issues, then joined the Shooters Party (a gun rights group) after a Coalition government tightened firearms restrictions. "David is married and owns an agribusiness consulting company in Sydney. A former veterinarian, he also has degrees in business and law." He's been a member of the Liberal Democratic Party—which says it is "broadly described as classical liberal or libertarian"—since at least 2007.

The new senator says of himself, "Looks like I'm going to be the senator for the donkeys," referring to the "donkey vote" by which Australians compelled by law to vote sometimes do nothing but mark the first candidates on the ballot and call it done—he had won first position on the ballot in New South Wales. Some commentators suggest he also benefited from confusion between the "Liberal" and "Liberal Democratic" party names.

But Leyonhjelm also won in a year when Australians sent several candidates from small parties, including the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, to the Senate—most of them based on working the country's preferential voting system, while he pulled 8.88 percent of first preference votes outright. That makes his presence in the upper house rather less unlikely than that of some of his colleagues.

Australia's media has been scrambling to find out just what Leyonhjelm plans to do in the Senate. So far, he's indicated a willingness to work with the country's new prime minister, Tony Abbott, on loosening markets and cutting taxes, but he's holding firm on anything he considers to be an expansion of the state. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that he and his party were "opposed to government intervention, comfortable with same-sex marriage and, while he personally backed Abbott on the carbon and mining taxes, he opposed paid parental leave." He favors legalizing marijuana too, and gun rights.

Leyonhjelm also said, "there are two guiding principles that determine our approach to legislation - we would never vote for an increase in taxes and we would never vote for a reduction in liberty."