Today, Federal Senator Nick Xenephon shocked Australia when he announced he was resigning from Parliament to contest a seat in the upcoming South Australian election.
This announcement comes after he referred his election to the High Court, after realizing he holds a form of British Citizenship.
He will run for the state seat of Hartley in Adelaide’s east, which is currently held by Liberal MP Vincent Tarzia by a narrow margin of 2.4 per cent.
In a statement, Senator Xenephon said, “I’ve decided that you can’t fix South Australia’s problems in Canberra without first fixing our broken political system back home.”
Murdoch University Senior Lecturer in global politics and policy Dr Ian Cook said it can be hard for minor parties to have an impact in Federal Politics, which may be one reason he has decided to return to a state level.
“They have some capacity to influence outcomes in the Senate, because to some extent they hold balance of power positions and or certainly their votes are important,” he said.
“But in terms of legislative policy program in place, getting real action, it’s really hard for minor parties and I can understand that he would feel frustrated after a number of years, and feel like it’s a game organised by the bigger parties.”
In what would be a significant moment in Australian politics, Dr Cook said it’s possible the Nick Xenephon Team could become a central part of Australian politics.
“Nick Xenephon brings a great profile, and in terms of candidate recognition and team recognition, their support in South Australia has been very strong. This is a real possibility that we could see a true third force, in fact that could displace one of the other major parties,” he said.
A big question remains as to what will happen to the Nick Xenephon Team at a Federal level, without their party leader.
“One of the problems with minor parties has been cohesion and staying together. Without him there, there’s some doubts,” said Dr Cook.
“Without his profile, there are questions as to how far the Xenephon Team can progress beyond this.
“So, at a Federal level I think they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them to make sure they can maintain the momentum they’ve got because they’re going to lose a lot by losing Nick Xenephon.”
However, this could potentially change some of the workings of Federal politics if the party can gain momentum in South Australia.
“With him stuck in the Liberal/Labor politics for so many years now, and so many people are dissatisfied with that arrangement,” said Dr Cook.
“So, if the Nick Xenephon Team or the party he’s moving into can become that significant force, and can become a different option in Australian politics, then I think it does represent something very significant in terms of where we’re going.”
Prior to his election to the Senate, Xenophon served in the South Australian Legislative Council for 10 years.
The South Australian state election will be held in March 2018.