| CANBERRA, Sept 9
CANBERRA, Sept 9 It's got guns for everyone and
souped-up cars, as well as mechanical dinosaurs and a Titanic
replica - welcome to the new dawn of Australian politics.
Almost 15 million voters in sports-mad Australia chose
conservative fitness fanatic Tony Abbott as their new leader on
Saturday, at the same time heralding in a rag-tag group of
"micro parties" set to play a role in the upper house Senate.
At the forefront of the new breed is the Palmer United
Party, which is likely to secure at least one Senate seat, set
up by the colourful coal mining multi-millionaire Clive Palmer.
Palmer's list of achievements includes plans to build a
replica of the Titanic and putting mechanical dinosaurs on a
luxury golf resort.
"Who knows where they stand on anything? For most of them,
there is no policy platform. It is going to be really
interesting times," Greens leader Christine Milne told reporters
Abbott won a decisive majority in the lower house over the
centre-left Labor government on Saturday but Milne said he would
likely need support from six of an expected eight unaligned
senators in the upper house.
Markets welcomed a return to majority government after six
years of Labor rule, with Australian shares rising 0.4 percent
on Monday as investors put their faith in Abbott to deliver
promised political and policymaking stability.
One of the likely Senate newcomers whose support Abbott
might need is Ricky Muir, leader of the Australian Motoring
Enthusiast Party. Muir has featured in a social media video clip
taking part in a friendly backyard fight with friends using
His party's website proclaims support for motorists, the
right to customise cars and to drive in national parks. Other
than that, Muir's party sees no need for other policies.
It was a similar refrain from the previously unknown Sports
Party in Western Australia state, which is also likely to win a
"The Australian Sports Party is all about healthy living
through sport. We want to make sure everyone has the best
opportunity to play sport," likely new Senator Wayne Dropulich
told Australian television.
In New South Wales, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm is
also on track to win a seat despite doing little public
campaigning. Gun ownership is heavily regulated in Australia but
he wants to free up gun laws so everyone can carry a weapon.
Leyonhjelm's party, similarly named to Abbott's
Liberal-National Party coalition, was the first name on a
beachtowel-length Senate ballot form.
The unusual Senate results are partly due to king maker
Glenn Druery, who set up an alliance of micro parties and helped
them work out how to capitalise on the voting system for the
Senate, where six candidates are elected from each state.
Under the complicated preferential voting system, the
candidates with the lowest votes are eliminated and their votes
are re-distributed according to preference deals worked out
among the parties.
Druery, for example, helped the Sports Party and Motoring
Enthusiast Party understand that they could win a seat if they
kept directing preferences away from the major parties, ensuring
a slow build-up of votes funnelled to them.
He said he helped the micro candidates avoid deals that
would favour the major parties.
"I show them how to do effective preference deals. If people
follow the guidelines, it can't fail," Druery told Reuters.
Abbott's conservatives expect many of the micro parties to
be more sympathetic to their centre-right agenda than the
current Senate, where Labor and the Greens have a majority.
But that is a moot point for now. Senate election results
could take two weeks to finalise and Labor and the Greens will
retain their majority until the new senators take their seats
from July 1, 2014.
(Editing by Paul Tait)