Australia Will Not See Its Second Libertarian Senator

Buckley loses out to a populist, protectionist uprising.


Gabriel Buckley
Patrick Earl

There's some good news in Australia's final election results: Libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm will be serving a second term. The bad news is that, now that the numbers are finally all tallied, he will not be joined by party mate Gabriel Buckley. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Australia's libertarian party, will not make further inroads in this election.

As we explained in July, Australia has just wrapped up a massive national election after dissolving and re-electing its Parliament. The country's election process is such a complicated affair (partly a preference-based system where they have several parties to choose from) that it took a month to tally all the votes. During the counting process, it appeared as though Buckley could possibly land the final Senate seat to represent Queensland.

But alas, it was not meant to be. Buckley announced last night he did not get elected. Instead another minor party, One Nation, claimed the seat. The One Nation Party, founded in 1997, stands for … well, let's just quote directly from its Wikipedia page and you can decide if its platform sounds at all familiar:

Arguing other parties to be out of touch with mainstream Australia, One Nation ran on a broadly populist and protectionist platform. It promised to drastically reduce immigration and to abolish "divisive and discriminatory policies … attached to Aboriginal and multicultural affairs." Condemning multiculturalism as a "threat to the very basis of the Australian culture, identity and shared values", One Nation rallied against government immigration and multicultural policies which, it argued, were leading to "the Asianisation of Australia." The party also denounced economic rationalism and globalisation, reflecting working-class dissatisfaction with the neo-liberal economic policies embraced by the major parties. Adopting strong protectionist policies, One Nation advocated the restoration of import tariffs, a revival of Australia's manufacturing industry, and an increase in support for small business and the rural sector

One Nation will end up seating four senators in the new Parliament. They had none in the previous Senate. They will be joining Leyonhjelm as "crossbenchers," the term for the country's legislators who do not belong to either the ruling majority (a coalition of moderates and conservatives) nor the primary opposition (labor and greens). There will be 11 members of the crossbench, which is a record. This is a bit of an irony, because Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arranged for election reforms intended to try to reduce the number of crossbenchers. He ended up with the exact opposite.

That 11 out of the 76 senators are not members of either the ruling or opposition parties is a big deal because none of the larger parties actually has enough votes to force through legislation. The ruling Coalition group was left with just 30 seats. They're not getting anything done unless the other parties or crossbenchers support them. That means Leyonhjelm cannot simply be ignored just because he's the sole representative for the LDP. It also means the One Nation senators cannot be ignored either.

Buckley posted his thanks to his supporters on Facebook: "As always, it has been an absolute honour and a privilege to represent the Liberal Democrats at the highest level and we now turn our attentions to the NSW count. Hopefully David Leyonhjelm can build on his hard work from last term."