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."

NEXT: Obama Nearly Blundered the U.S. Into a War. Will John Kerry Blunder Us Out of One?

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  1. Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party,

    What about the Standing In the Back Looking Stupid Party?

    1. So they have the Greens in AUS, too

      1. Actually, the Greens held the balance of power in the Oz Senate back in the ’90s for a number of years. As I understand it, their “obstructionism” or “principled stand” was one of the reason the Australian economy crashed back then.

        1. They also halted all damn construction and tore some down – so next time they got big rains, they had massive flooding – which was blamed on climate change.

          1. Aren’t there some groups in CA that want to tear down damns?

            1. Or even dams

            2. Oh yes. “Restore Hetch Hetchy” is a thing, but for some reason, removing a big chunk of the Bay Area’s water and power has not yet gotten a lot of traction.

    2. Standing In the Back Dressed Stupidly and Looking Stupid Party

      Compulsory serving of asparagus at breakfast is a sensible position.

      1. Hey, if you make me pay for your health care, I’m gonna make you eat your greens.

  2. 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.”

    Fuck yeah.

    Also, is it my imagination, or is this guy a Viking named Lionhelmet? Because, again, fuck yeah.

    1. Hmm. I don’t approve of his “pillaging” policy, but I do approve of his “raping” policy.

  3. So this is how the events depicted in the Mad Max movies come to pass.

    1. Libertopia, here Oceana comes!

  4. 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

    See, this is the problem with compulsory voting. Sometimes those rusticated hicks vote for the unmutual candidate. The obvious solution is to distribute the ballots already filled out and have voters make their mark to certify their consent. That way democracy is secured.

    1. As long as I can do the filling out, I’m ok with this.

      1. Pretty sure you didn’t go to the right college for that kind of responsibility, Paul.

        1. College? What is this college of which you speak?

        2. I, however, did go to an appropriate college (so appropriate that Obama filled in for Ted Kennedy as graduation speaker the year Ted died). So put me in charge.

    2. Just gotta nudge the rubes a bit.

  5. I don’t want to come across as always criticizing the LP, but shouldn’t they be running candidates for U.S. political office?

  6. I remember all the bullshit in the EU about randomizing browsing ballots to prevent bias. They’ll go those obscene lengths to keep Microsoft from getting the slightest anticompetitve edge on free software anyone can download at will, but they won’t do the same thing for an actual election (granted, Australia is not in the EU, but still).

  7. I think ballots should just be blank pieces of paper where you have to write in the name of the candidate you favor. If you don’t know who the candidates are (or at least know their name), you can’t vote for them.

    Why do so many people think that it is a good thing to get more people who don’t know or give a fuck about politics to vote?

      1. Civic duty is showing up to a jury trial and doing one’s best to understand the proceedings so that one can render and informed and sober decision.

        Stupidity is showing up to a jury trial, ignoring the proceedings and saying at last, FRY THE FUCKER.

        I would posit that too many voting in the US exercise their voting privileges using the latter method.

    1. You could do it through computer, as well.

      List the candidate’s name and party (or list “independent”). Print ballot. Give to poll worker. Fin.

      Why do so many people think that it is a good thing to get more people who don’t know or give a fuck about politics to vote?

      Great question.

      1. Because those people usually vote for more socialism, duh.

  8. Never vote for an increase in taxes. What if someone declares war on you? Raise taxes then to pay for the defense? What if a massive environmental catastrophe occurs. Raise taxes to pay for the response?

    “Never raise taxes” is the political philosophy of a retarded child.

    1. “What if someone declares war on you?”

      Like who? What you really mean is “what if I decide to declare war on someone?”

      “What if a massive environmental catastrophe occurs.”

      Australia has reserves it can use, we won’t need to raise taxes. Compared to national expenses even a once-in-a-lifetime disaster wouldn’t cost that much to rebuild from.

    2. And “always raise taxes and spending” is … ?

      1. That’s not what I believe. I believe in paying for what we buy.

        1. Sure, by borrowing. You don’t believe in paying with current taxes, and you sure don’t believe in any limit to how high tax rates can be raised and still collect more in tax dollars.

          1. Also, Tony wants to buy an end to poverty and injustice, so no amount of money will ever be enough.

    3. how much is enough Tony? how much is rich? would you agree no one should get rich working for the government?

    4. Never vote for an increase in taxes. What if someone declares war on you? Raise taxes then to pay for the defense? What if a massive environmental catastrophe occurs. Raise taxes to pay for the response?

      I always laugh that you use examples that can always be paid for with current taxes as an excuse for raising taxes. “We need roads!” And we can easily pay for those with current taxes. “WHAT ABOUT WAR!” First, funny how warlike liberals get when taxes are discussed. Second, unless you attack people all the time, it’s very rare and could be paid for with current revenue streams. “ENVIRONMENTAL CATASTROPHE!” What percentage of American or Australian GDP is spent on fixing natural disaster damage, Tony? A very small percentage, and we could certainly pay for it with far lower taxes.

      The only reason to have high taxes is for massive wealth transfers. In other words, the only reason to have the level of taxes that we have right now is to take money from one person and just give it to another. There’s a word for taking money from someone without their consent and simply giving it to someone else. I leave you to look that word up.

      1. They were examples that might necessitate a tax increase–unforeseen expenses. The point is merely that “never raise taxes ever” is not a governing philosophy, it’s the ideology of a radical idiot.

        Yes the bulk of our federal dollars pay for safety net programs. You want to get rid of those programs, convince enough people to vote for their eradication. Until then, should we not pay for the things we have bought?

    5. Tony is a subject matter expert on the political philosophies of retarded children, being one himself.

    6. Re: Tony,

      Never vote for an increase in taxes. What if someone declares war on you?

      What if we’re invaded by aliens from Mars? Huh? HUH?

      Raise taxes then to pay for the defense?

      Well, governments used to sell war bonds, and people did buy them. Here, take a look:…..01/148.jpg

      Maybe you think that making everybody poor by force before any war is way better than selling war bonds to pay for defense at the moment and other icky, markety stuff. I think you are just being an asshole.

      1. making everybody poor by force

        Can any of you address an actual belief held by liberals, or are you all retarded children?

        1. Why bother with your inane beliefs in invisible DC Daddy when we can focus on your actual actions, such as making everybody poor by force.

    7. In an emergency as Tony imagines, the government could borrow. In other (most) years, there should be no deficit.

      So yeah, when taxes are already ridiculously high, vowing not to raise them is a sensible platform.

      1. He didn’t place a condition on it.

        1. Yes, in a soundbite he didn’t explain every single detail of his philosophy, so Tony demands we assume there’s nothing else in his political philosophy.

    8. Right. Like the income tax in Britain?just a temporary wartime measure!

    9. I realize the point that Tony is trying to make, but from a practical point of view funding a war with high taxes is one of the worst things you can do — it lowers civilian morale, kills wealth production, and makes any war effort contingent on how much you can squeeze out of the proles. Germany and Austria in WWI literally taxed their people into starvation; Russia did something similar.

      When you can, you want to fund a war using debts, nationalization of foreign assets, or something (anything!) besides war taxes.

    10. “What if someone declares war on you?”

      Well, clearly you aren’t dealing with the US in such a scenario, so you should probably be good with an ordinary level of defense.

  9. This story leaves out immigration, which is strange because it was definitely the biggest issue in the election. I disagree with their position on these “refugees.” There are about 20 million Australians in a continent of 3 billion, we need a sensible immigration policy.

    1. I think Australia is it’s continent. And I can’t blame then for not wanting their society washed away in a wave of Asian immigrants.

      1. Shouldn’t that be up to the employers who they want to employ, the landlords who they want to rent to, and the landowners who they want to sell to? Why should the collective, or the majority, decide who can immigrate?

        1. Not when public property is involved. If it’s not, then landowners can let whoever they want on their own property.

          1. But that wouldn’t happen in libertopia, so we shouldn’t worry about it happening in real life.

          2. This sounds very similar to the generic ROADZ! argument progressives make against libertarianism

            1. Are you addressing my statement? If so, how do you mean?

        2. Because a nation that employed Indonesians, that rented land and sold land to Indonesians, would not be Australia. It would be Indonesia. And the Australian people don’t want that.

          It was no accident that immigration wasn’t mentioned. They always need to put their spin on it, Australians voting in a party(The Liberals) who opposed immigration would not fit their narrative.

          1. But this article is discussing a Liberal Democrat not a Liberal. It’s well known that he Liberals in Australia hate free association. We are wondering if Mr. Leyonhjelm does as well.

          2. Gee, a poster who has never been seen before shows up making a post about the evils of immigration and Reason for supporting it. Wonder who that could be.

            1. That sure refuted his argument!

              Are you Tony? Because you ad hom HARD

    2. A sensible immigration policy is allowing free migration.

      1. I think most Australians look at Indonesia and say “no thanks.”

      2. Moochers come on in! We didn’t need that property we earned!

        A LESS libertarian concept than free immigration I can hardly think of.

  10. This got my hopes up that the Liberal Democratic party in Scotland is libertarian too. Because I have ignored Scottish politics since arriving and have no idea. But alas, their website is full of windmills and “fair fuel prices”. Maybe they are the greens up here.

    1. Scotland is very left-wing. The UK would actually become more conservative if Scotland votes for independence in the upcoming referendum.

    2. Liberal Democrats in the UK are theoretically a “centrist” party squeezed between the Conservatives and Labor.

      Back a century ago, when they were the unadorned Liberals, they used to be vaguely libertarian (classical liberal with a lot of compromises as one of the two establishment parties). But the rise of the socialists (Labor) drove a lot of the party to the Conservatives as part of an anti-socialist alliance. The remainder eventually became the Socialism Lite party, especially with the merger that made them the Liberal Democrats.

      And then when socialism died between Maggie Thatcher and the fall of the Soviet Union, Labour itself became Socialism Lite, and, well, the LibDems are just vaguely Not Labour.

      In Scotland in particular, they’re basically the party you vote for if you think the Conservatives are anti-Scot, Labour is too socialist, and Socttish independence is a bad idea. Shetland and Orkney, which have all the oil, consistently vote Liberal/LibDem.

  11. Australians Elect a Libertarian Senator

    Those crazy Aussies do everything upside-down!

  12. 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.”

    Focused taxes ARE a form of government intervention. I smell a contradiction there.

    He favors legalizing marijuana too, and gun rights.

    Why, that would lead to a country living in fear of hordes of gun-toting potheads!

    1. I believe Abbott’s position on carbon and mining taxes is to get rid of them.

    2. Pigovian Tax maybe? That still would be a step up from how government currently chooses to tax specific activities.
      Altough I don’t see how mining qualifies here.

      1. Biden’s Scroteplugs is correct, nevermind.

  13. From the Liberal Democratic Party’s website, under ‘Policies’:

    The LDP believes adults have a right to end their own lives, with or without assistance, and to have access to information to help them do it.

    That and a bunch of other good stuff. But no mention of the immigration/open borders USA Gary Johnson libertarian stuff that I could find. Aussies are very sensitive about this.

    1. The LDP policy on immigration can be found here:

      It’s very open border friendly, at least in comparison to the major political parties in Australia.

  14. So what is the penalty for not voting? Does Australia have disobedient principled non-voters? Are they exiled to Tasmania or fed to the crocs?

    1. I had thought that crocodiles were native to Africa. We only have alligators here the USA. But the Wikipedia tells me I’m wrong about this. I did watch an Indian wrestle an alligator in Florida when I was kid though, that’s what the ad sign said anyway.

      1. “We only have alligators here the USA.”

        Incorrect, sir.

        “Within the United States, the American crocodile’s distribution is limited to the southern half of Florida – though at least two have been found as far north as the Tampa Bay area -[2] and has an estimated population of 2,000; a significant comeback from the few hundred crocodiles found back in the 1970s.”

        1. I usually like it when someone at H&R replies to one my post. Uggh.

      2. There are also crocodiles in Cuba and Central America in the Americas.
        As well as Africa, much of Asia, and Australia (which has two species).

  15. Tony and OldMexican still fight? This is too much for my tiny little organs to handle.

  16. Aussies are compelled by law to vote? That’s rich.

    1. The Aussies have a reverse poll tax, a penaltax. I’ll have to cogitate about that for a few weeks. A small poll tax does not strike me a bad idea though. Who the hell would play a game of poker without an anti? The game would fail without one. If you don’t think voting is a game you’ve lost your mind.

  17. Some commentators suggest he also benefited from confusion between the “Liberal” and “Liberal Democratic” party names.

    The LP should change its name to the “Democrats Party” or some such, so the name is close to one of the two parties on the ballots. Would probably get more votes from idiots trying to vote straight TEAM than earnest LP voters.

    1. This is called noise. In any measurement there is always noise.

  18. Unfortunately his emphasis on gun laws means that people will not bother listening to his parties economic ideas.

  19. For those who have mentioned immigration, Australia’s high minimum wage and generous welfare programs have pretty much guaranteed that the White Australia Policy (officially ended in 1973) is continued in a different form.

    Both the major parties and the majority of the population favor the current income and welfare policies so it seems unlikely that they will change.

    Thus Australia will continue to have its “asylum seekers” problem which it currently handles by paying other (poorer) countries to deal with.

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