Jacqui Lambie is the quintessential Australian who found herself flung into power at the 2013 Federal Election as one of the new senators for Tasmania. Already proving to be a colourful character, her rise to fame was part of mining magnate Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party, which saw a total of four senators elected under Mr. Palmer. However, as we have already seen, her hardline approach to politics meant her coalition with Mr. Palmer lasted less than a year. Since declaring herself an independent and becoming friends with Senators Xenophon and Muir, she seems to be going from strength to strength, all in the name of democracy. Jacqui Lambie has been a vocal player in the 44th Parliament and, given the reign of a senator is six years, it seems we are in for quite a ride.
The 2013 Federal Election result was as unexpected as it was expected. From the re-emergence of Rudd as leader after the dumping of Gillard just weeks before the election was announced, the House of Representatives result was very much known before the counting had even begun. That being said, the Senate result—famously called the ‘house of unrepresentative swill’, by former Prime Minister Paul Keating—was anything but expected. With the election of a whole host of minor and micro party senators, Jacqui Lambie was just one of the incoming many. The emergence of her new party, Palmer United, run by the millionaire Clive Palmer himself, Lambie entered the political scene as an unknown war veteran, winning her place with just 6.59% of the primary vote.
The honeymoon between Palmer and Lambie did not last very long. Lambie cited bullying and intimidation from Palmer as reasons for leaving the party, retorting that she could not vote in Tasmania’s best interests while still being a Palmer United member. So, she threw out all her yellow, adopting a new colour for a new era in the Lambie reign. When these events first occurred, the press gallery had bets on what Lambie would pick as important issues for her, but it seems even they were surprised by what issues are close to her heart. After spending over 10 years in the Defence Force, from 1989 to 2000, Lambie has demonstrated that veteran affairs is an issue close to her heart, and one that is a high priority for her. For example, in order to protest pension cuts to veterans, Lambie encouraged people to turn their backs on any ministers speaking at Remembrance Day ceremonies. She has also played an instrumental role in holding the Coalition hostage over the passing of the 2014/5 budget, and she seems to be echoing what many in the community are saying regarding asylum seekers.
This is not to say that Lambie has been without controversy, particularly over her comments regarding ISIS and Islam. She has received death threats, which threaten to behead her if she does not convert to Islam and support Sharia Law. Lambie has also said she would continue to advocate for tougher regulations on Halal food practices and certifications, and against ‘unnecessary’ face coverings in public. Lambie has also proposed that the death penalty be reintroduced on a case-by-case basis when dealing with crimes involving terrorism. While Lambie’s recent views against the Coalition’s plans to allow ministers to strip dual citizenship on the suspicion of terrorism are surprising, she believes the courts—not the ministers—should have the power.
Jacqui Lambie believes that Australia should have a referendum on gay marriage, giving the power back to the people, despite admitting that her personal views are that only a man and woman should be allowed to marry. She claims that if marriage equality was put to a referendum, Australia would vote against it. This could be a significant factor in the ability for Australia to pass marriage equality, especially if the Liberal party is allowed a conscience vote since the numbers reflected in this vote could be tight.
Lambie has put forth an application to the Australian Electoral Commission to start her own political party named the ‘Jacquie Lambie Network’. This would mean that, unlike an independent, she could set up a similar party to that of the Palmer United Party. While this all feels a little too familiar, if she was able to run candidates at the next election it would mean her party platform would be based upon the views of one woman, which in the case of Clive Palmer, has not worked out quite so well.
A problem that seems to be increasingly apparent with Lambie’s time as Senator is that she is prone to personal politics. Whilst she believes in giving more democratic power to the electorate—such as a referendum on marriage equality—it only coincides with cases where she genuinely believes her own view will be sustained. The development of her own political party named after herself suggests that Jacqui Lambie is in the business of self-branding. While, as an independent this is an absolute necessity, the way in which her personal politics influences Australian politics is another question, especially if her party gets other members elected—no matter how remote that possibility is. Currently, Lambie is able to express her personal views as an independent federal Senator, but this would have to change if she was to have elected members of a party she instigated. Whilst Lambie seems to have an opinion on everything, there may come a time where her personalised platform means that political deals may be made in her best interest, rather than the best interest of the Australian public. In saying this, politics and the good of the Australian people always seems to be subjective.
All in all, Jacquie Lambie is perhaps one of the most interesting people we have had enter politics since ‘Please Explain’ Ms. Pauline Hanson. Her approach to attacking political issues may be extremely pragmatic or idealistic at times, but her split from the Palmer United Party can only be a good thing on her quest to revolutionise Australian politics. Irrelevant of her unusual ways, Lambie has just over four years left to show us who she is, and how she can develop politically. Unless of course, that looming double dissolution appears; which in any case is unlikely at this stage.
Whilst a radical senator in her approach and interesting hard line ideas, Lambie follows no particular left or right orientation, but is more of an abstract paint spill on the political spectrum.
Words by Emma Cresdee & Laura Telford