Nick Xenophon has capitulated to Turnbull’s big business pressure group by supporting a 5% cut to corporate taxes. That’s right; the man who markets himself as a maverick, as a pox-on-the-major-parties-houses, as literally ‘a common sense alternative’ to establishment politics, as the champion of the little guy and as someone who holds the bastards to account, has shown himself to be chief bastard.
Like a plot from a how-not-to-negotiate training video, Xenophon caved on a policy that he had forever promised to stand firm on, by letting the government gift a tax cut to businesses earning up to $50 million dollars a year, in return for a useless-piece-of-paper-report and possibly a one-off discount on energy bills for welfare recipients, no bigger than the discount you already get for paying a bill on time. The outcome of this king-maker’s negotiation is akin to swapping a Ferrari for a match box car.
So why did he do it, you ask? Why, when the Australian electorate are howling at the Liberal government’s attack on wages, when Turnbull is as popular as a wet fart in a lift, when both Xenophon and Hanson are flip-flopping around trying to find a position on penalty rates which wallpapers over their Liberal roots, when the last thing the economy needs, and the government budget needs, is to have billions of dollars flooding out to off shore tax havens when it would be much better for the economy if it were going into a nation-wide wage rise, when Xenophon’s Teflon coating has protected his ex-CEO-of-the-Retail-Traders-Association, Senator Stirling Griff, from any scrutiny of his obvious conflict of interest in voting on retail wages, why would Xenophon be so electorally inept to back the big end of town over those people who put him into a position of power in the first place? Why would he decide to wipe billions off the budget from today onwards forever, a slash and burn which will see public services kicked to the curb and every Australian’s quality of life damaged because of it, when he must know this decision will come back and bite him in the bum electorally in the short term and the long term?
Simply, Xenophon, former member of the Adelaide University Liberal Club, is doing it because he wants to. He is doing it because he can. It is a myth that he is returning to type. There is no return. This is who Nick Xenophon is and always was. A company tax cut is his ideological preference and if you voted for him expecting otherwise, well, more fool you.
I have been watching Xenophon get a free ride in the media for so long that he’s become a caricature of the loss of any real journalistic talent. He is never scrutinised, beyond what deal he might do at the last minute before a policy vote takes place. During the election campaign, no media outlet provided any substantial analysis of what Xenophon stands for, preferring instead to follow his stunt-led campaign to its shallow inevitable sound bite, criticising the Labor Party for being too Labor, the Liberal Party for being too Liberal and claiming to be neither of those things, and standing for nothing, yet no one cared because, look over there a shiny object. I’ve had people literally say to me: ‘I’m voting for Nick Xenophon because he’s not Labor or Liberal’. It’s like saying ‘I eat vanilla ice cream because I don’t like chocolate or strawberry’ and when you ask if they like vanilla flavour, they look blankly and say ‘I’ve never really held it long enough in my mouth to get an idea of how it tastes’.
In Nick Xenophon’s claim to populism, in his un-scrutinised media profile, in his free ride to do whatever he likes because he has the power to do that, we all lose. Xenophon is everything that is wrong with politics and political reporting in Australia. It’s ironic, that the man who rose to political power promising to reform gambling, who hasn’t achieved a single reform to gambling, who is more interested in doing terrible deals than talking about gambling reform, is the ultimate gamble for the electorate. I like to call Nick Xenophon the vote gamble for terrible gamblers. He’s like a box of revolting chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get, but whatever you get, it is going to taste terrible.