Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 March 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 MARCH 2017 9 NEWS THEODORA MAIOS Greek Australian Senator Nick Xenophon announced he is ready to shake up South Australian politics with the launch of a new party to contest next year's state election. According to Xenophon, the party, named SA Best, will run candidates with real-life skills and experience in the March 2018 election in an attempt to give South Australia a complete change of approach to the way it is governed and how it delivers key services. At last year's federal election, The Nick Xenophon Team won three South Australian senate seats and the Lower House seat of Mayo, won by Rebekha Sharkie, and had a strong showing in the regional federal electorates. In an interview with Neos Kosmos, Senator Xenophon talks about his decision to launch a new party, the key policies SA Best will be focusing on, and his strategies for tackling SA's major issues in the future. Why and when did you decide that there is a need to set up a new party? Has this been something you have been contemplating for a while? It wasn't a spot decision. The decision was that the State election is coming up and after the success of the Federal Election and the fact that three senators were elected from one state, we didn't want to lose the opportunity to give South Australians a clear choice at the next state election, which is due in March of next year. The important issue here is that we needed to have a separate entity that was focused on South Australia and its issues and getting as many people elected to the South Australian parliament [as possible]. How and why did you come up with the name SA Best? I think the name says it all. It is about bringing out the best in people, the best in our state and making the best decisions for the future of South Australia. It is positive and it is challenging. It is very hard to break the duopoly of the two major parties. As I have been telling people: forget the rest, vote SA Best. You stated that your wish is to shake up Australian politics. What does this involve in real pragmatic terms? SA Best will be based at the state level but what it involves in pragmatic terms is that we are already shak- ing up Australian politics by sharing the balance of power in the senate. It also involves getting people elected so that we can be in a position of influence so that we can shake up the political system to make it more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to people's needs. You said that you will run candidates with reallife skills and experience. What areas is this referring to and what experiences will this involve? What qualities do you wish your candidates to have? I want a combination of candidates whether they've been involved in government, business people, academics, tradies, people who have raised families, who bination of Liberal and Labor seats. We want to do this well so that we don't spread ourselves too thin, therefore we would rather run in a handful of seats and aim to win those seats. It also depends on the calibre of people coming forward and what they can bring to the ticket. You have stated that we need to change the approach in the way our state is governed and the way it delivers its key services. What are you proposing for each service area? Just to give you an idea, my state colleague John Darley has long proposed an operational audit which involves making sure that those areas that are in high demand, where there is a shortage of frontline staff, those areas These are things that will roll out, but I think parliament needs to be responsive to the needs of the people. It needs to keep the bureaucracy to account and to ensure that money is not wasted. There is also a need to scrutinise legislation properly. The Legislative Council should genuinely be a house of review by examining legislation not just when it arrives from debate, but having a system that analyses legislation as a matter of course; if it's a contentious piece of legislation. That's what the Senate does and we can learn from that. It does mean that people have to work harder and smarter and that's a good thing. You need to have a proper process. I think that what happens is that sometimes people debate just for the sake of debating without Playford and Don Dunstan were Ying and Yang. Tom Playford was very much a basics type Premier. He built on industrial development. You have said in the past that one policy option is a skilled migration and population growth strategy. Is this from a particular targeted region? I think the name says it all. It is about bringing out the best in people, the best in our state and making the best decisions for the future of South Australia. It is positive and it is challenging. It is very hard to break the duopoly of the two major parties. As I have been telling people, forget the rest, vote SA Best. have run businesses. We just want people with a solid grounding in common sense and it doesn't mean we just want people who have been around for a long time. It's a combination of different generations. I think we need to have that blend that reflects the diversity of our society. Of course we also want people who have come to this wonderful country from other countries and have made Australia their home. In terms of qualities of each candidate, we are looking for leadership and organisational skills, a good radar that senses and picks up on what's going on in the community and a sense of empathy so that they actually give a damn about people and their issues. These are all important qualities. You have called for potential candidates to register online. Are there particular seats you will be targetting? We have seen a few applications already and locationwise there has been a strong showing of candidates in the Adelaide Hills where Rebekha Sharkie is the member, in the northern suburb seats and the western suburb seats; a com- where there are too many, those areas where arguably resources could be diverted to areas of greater need are dealt with. You recalibrate the public service in a positive way and also reform our system of government. For instance, bureaucrats need to be kept accountable by both houses of parliament in the estimates process. The senate does a very good job of that federally. We should try replicate some of the practices that have been tried and proven in the senate and which would make the parliament more efficient. To do with more legislation, more issues. A parliament should be a powerhouse of ideas for the state but instead it's become a Punch & Judy show where people are going to stand up and abuse each other. You need to have Freedom of Information laws so government is open, so you know what government is doing, so we don't have secretive government. Secretive governments make bad decisions. It depends though. It depends what the issues [are]. What state parliamentary strategies do you want to see changed? actually adding any value to the debate and I think that's one of the issues that needs to be taken into account. I think that parliament has been a tall case of confrontation rather than cooperation in solving problems. South Australia appears to have lost its way and faces many challenges on issues like unemployment, investments and manufacturing. What do you think has gone wrong and how can we fix it? South Australia has the weakest population growth on the mainland. I think we have lost our way in terms of a number of policies. We have lost our regional status. We still got it, but we lost it in relative terms because Western Australia has had a good stint. The demise has developed over a number of years. The state bank disaster deeply scarred the state and I think we were an industrial powerhouse many years ago, built on cheap power, affordable housing and effectively an abundant well-skilled and well-trained workforce. We lost those advantages over the years and it's almost as though Tom (Sir Thomas) Business migrants and international students won't take away jobs from the locals. It will actually increase economic activity in the state. We are doing very poorly in terms of population growth. This is a country built on a sensible migration program. My parents came out here as migrants from Cyprus and Greece respectively and nearly one in two people in Australia are either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas. That indicates to me that we are a great beautiful multicultural melting pot and that is something that we shouldn't lose sight of. Migration policies in Australia are not racially based so it depends where the people come from, what skills they can add and how they can boost the state's employment growth, [and] boost the state's wealth. If you have the kind of mind to come in and buy a business and employ more people in return for getting citizenship, that actually grows economic growth. So, I'm not suggesting unskilled migrants come in, I'm suggesting business migrants and international students who are here to study, spend their money and live here which in turn stimulates the economy. People can do their course and then leave. We need to give them pathways. They build a link to our state. We need to allow them to stay for a little and employ their skills here. If done properly, migration grows economic growth. SA Best is unlikely to field candidates in all 47 Lower House seats, but Senator Xenophon expects to have a considerable impact on both the Liberal and Labor parties — buoyed by the results of last year's federal election. Apart from the three SA Senate seats (Nick Xenophon, Stirling Griff and Skye Kakoschke-Moore) and the Lower House seat of Mayo won in last year's federal election, the party also had a strong showing in the regional federal electorates of Grey, where NXT secured 27.8 per cent of the primary vote, and Barker, with 29.1 per cent. If this popularity was to continue in these regions, SA Best could snare seats in the state electorates of Mt Gambier, Mackillop, Hammond, Chaffey, Finnis, Heysen, Kavel, Flinders and Giles.
4 March 2017
18 March 2017