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Xenophon says no hung parliament - but don't bet on it

Politics

Election wildcard Nick Xenophon is still refusing to disclose where his support would swing in the event of a hung federal parliament, arguing it’s unlikely such an outcome will eventuate – and he’s confident enough to wager a bottle of Grange on the matter.

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But the anti-gambling campaigner is adamant the unusual display of confidence is “not a bet”.

Xenophon, whose fledgling party is poised to have a big say in the next senate and is touted as a genuine contender in a handful of SA Lower House seats, refused early in the campaign to buy into calls for him to declare who he would support in a hung parliament.

At the time, he declared it was too early to assess what policies would unfold. He responded to a demand penned in InDaily by former state Liberal leader Iain Evans to show his hand by saying that doing so would weaken any future bargaining position.

But two days out from the close of polls – with the respective parties’ policy agenda largely on the table – Xenophon believes it’s not a decision he will ever have to make.

“I think it’s fair to say I don’t think there’ll be a hung parliament at all,” he told InDaily in the midst of his media rounds this morning.

“I think any possibility of it two or three weeks ago has diminished.”

Indeed, so confident is he that he offered to “make a public pledge – but not a bet”.

“I’ll give a bottle of Grange to InDaily if there’s a hung parliament… a cheap version of Grange!” he offered.

“I’m expecting Malcolm Turnbull to have a comfortable working majority in the Lower House.”

But he believes the Senate will be – as it generally is – a thorn in that Government’s side.

“In the Senate it will be, as has been the case over many years, that the Government doesn’t have the numbers.”

Xenophon seems confident of playing a big role in the Upper House, saying: “I think it’s important you have that check on executive authority”.

Nonetheless, he refused to buy into which parties’ policies have best reflected his own priorities – of which he highlighted jobs and manufacturing issues, with uncertainty over Arrium and the impending closure of Holden.

In the event that he ends up lighter in pocket – saving the cost of a bottle of “cheap Grange” – but weighed down with the choice of which party to throw his political heft behind, Xenophon remains coy on where his thinking lies.

“No, because it’s a case where both major parties, I think, in that position, would be prepared to sit down and negotiate,” he said.

“It’s still in that realm… we’ll sit down as a team and seize the opportunity to get the best outcome not just for the electorate and the state but the broader national interests.”

He lamented the tenor of the campaign, where much of the major-party bile has been directed at his own team, accusing the Liberals and Labor of appearing to “sit across the table shouting at each other but underneath the table playing footsies with each other”.

“I just hope people see through the deals they’ve done,” he said.

In the event that he wins Lower House seats but not the balance of power, Xenophon argues his MPs will be “there to represent their constituents but also to work closely together on a number of issues”.

He has already floated that once his name recognition has played its part in this campaign, he expects to change the party brand to deflect the notion of it as a mere cult of personality.

“That gives us an opportunity to be more about them and not just about me, which is what I want,” he said, quoting the one-time presidential aspirant and fellow political disrupter Ralph Nader that “the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers”.

“I’m hoping [the NXT] will move into something that represents people from the political centre, who are not ideological but pragmatic, hard-working and who listen to their communities,” he said.

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