Nanny State

Australia's Libertarian Senator Won't Seek Re-election

David Leyonhjelm will pursue state office instead to fight restrictive, nannying laws.


David Leyonhjelm
David Leyonhjelm/BS Services

Libertarian Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm is resigning from national politics, but he isn't leaving government behind. Instead he's looking to take his fight against the nanny state to the local level.

Leyonhjelm, of Australia's Liberal Democratic Party (that's the country's label for libertarians), was elected to office in 2013 and re-elected in 2016. He has spent a lot of that time advocating for the liberty to own guns, marry somebody of the same sex, legally smoke marijuana, and be free from unwarranted government surveillance.

Well, at least gay marriage was legalized (after a lengthy, complicated public vote). The rest has been a struggle. Even after the Australian Senate made it easier for terminally ill patients to import medical marijuana, the country's Department of Health continued to threaten people who attempted to do so. And the country has actually ramped up surveillance authorities on its citizens and is now potentially threatening everybody's data privacy and security with anti-encryption legislation. Meanwhile, as Australia's extremely high taxes on cigarettes has created a massive black market for the goods, the country has responded by attempting to stop large cash transactions.

So Leyonhjelm has now decided to focus on fighting the country's nanny tendencies on the state level. He says he's planning to run for the Upper House in New South Wales (home of Sydney and the country's highest population concentration of nearly 8 million).

He told Sky News that he wants to fight against red tape on the state level, focusing on familiar overregulation issues like liquor licensing, rules on where you can smoke or vape, gambling, laws that control business hours, and issues like assisted suicide and, again, drug legalization.

In the interview, which aired Monday night in Australia, he also expressed support for allowing booths for people attending music festivals to test their drugs to make sure that they're safe. Drug overdoses often happen because pills are adulterated with fentanyl or other opioids of which the user is not aware. But New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian is apparently opposed to allowing open testing. Four people have died from drug overdoses at music festivals in New South Wales since September, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The idea that pill-testing shouldn't be used because it gives the green light to kids to take drugs is a cruel attitude to something that's taking young kids' lives," Leyonhjelm told Sky News.

An election analyst at Australia's ABC Network (not the same as America's Disney-owned network of the same name) predicted that Leyonhjelm would have a tough time keeping his Senate seat. The ruling government has made it harder since Leyonhjelm was elected for minor parties to reach the polling thresholds needed to win seats under the country's preferential voting system. But he could fare better with the New South Wales Legislative Council, though he's going to be competing against other third parties as well.

Reason interviewed Leyonhjelm not long after he was first seated as a senator. Read it here.