Meet the Small Parties: The Jacquie Lambie Network

Ah, the Jacqui Lambie Network.  I don’t always agree with Jacqui Lambie, but I do like her.  For the twelve people who don’t already know this, Jacqui appeared on the political landscape as a successful Senator for the Palmer United Party in 2013, but quickly broke ranks to become an Independent.  Like my other Senate favourite, Ricky Muir, she came into the Senate with no background in politics, and intially did say a number of foolish things.  She also has a fairly broad, working class accent, which has, unfortunately, made it easier for people to dismiss her as stupid.

But (again like Ricky), Jacqui learned on the job, and has become an effective and popular Senator for Tasmania.  She is also, in my view, an argument in favour of our unofficial Senate lottery system – as a non-politician suddenly forced to learn the job of being a Senator, she brings a refreshingly non-partisan perspective to the Senate, and takes the view that her job is to put her State first.  Because she is not beholden to a major party and their policies, she is actually in a position to do this.  I wish we had a whole lot more senators like her – and behold, here is the Jacqui Lambie Network, which promises just that!

Would you like to vote for an independent Senator, who’ll always put their state first? 

The first rule of the JLN is that you must always fight for your State’s interests in Federal Parliament, before any political party interests.

(The first rule of the Jacqui Lambie Fight Club is that you must never talk about the Jacqui Lambie Fight Club)

I do note that this approach does require the ability to discern what is in one’s State’s interests, but a reasonably intelligent person who is willing to pay attention should be able to make a fair job of it.

The front page of the JLN site talks about Jacqui.  She introduces herself as an average Australian, a single mum, former soldier, someone who has had to rely on a pension at time.

I understand that most Australians want a hand up and an opportunity to work hard, not a hand out. I understand that sometimes you need someone to believe in you. And that having someone who’ll just listen and stand by you, is the difference between winning that second chance at life or failing.

Have I mentioned yet that we need more politicians who have had life experiences outside politics?  Let me mention it again…

I like that she acknowledges that she hasn’t got everything right, and that she has been learning.  And here’s the sales pitch:

So, would you like to vote for a truly independent Senator, who’ll always put their State first?

The JLN will stand like-minded Senate candidates in most states of Australia. Just as I’ve been able to deliver more for Tasmania’s small business, mining, timber, manufacturing, local government and farming sectors – so too will a JLN Senator for your State.

Just as I’ve protected the incomes and rights of Australia’s true underdogs who are forced by all governments to suffer in silence – our struggling families, pensioners, unemployed, veterans, university students and diggers – so too will a JLN senator for your State.

Jacqui positions herself as a candidate who will stand up for the working classes and for people who are struggling – like a good old-fashioned labour party, only without unions, I suspect.

The purpose of the JLN is to bring together like-minded independents in a loose affiliation, sort of like an IGA for politicians.  I’m not quite sure how this works – this is one party where I’d quite like to see their constitution.  Obviously, if they are intended to put their State first in Parliament they won’t be voting identically on every issue, but will band together as a party for registration purposes (and to capture that all-important square above the line), and presumably they will share some policies.  Note, incidentally, that one of the JLN’s policies is to allow conscience votes on all moral and ethical issues.  This is logically consistent.

Let’s have a look at what these are.

Given Jacqui’s background as a veteran, it isn’t surprising that she has extensive policies around Defence and Veteran welfare.  She feels that our Defense Force is overstretched, with too many troops deployed for too long to the Middle East, where they are likely to suffer both physical and psychological injuries. She wants us out of the Middle East at least until America starts making more of an effort, but she does want us to support the Kurdish fighters (who she feels are the only people effectively fighting ISIS) by supplying both weapons and humanitarian assistance.

She wants a to establish a Royal Commission into Defense Abuse and Veterans’ Welfare to deal with sexual abuse in the military, and she wants better pay for members of the ADF, including “linking our diggers’ pay increases to the increases given to Australian politicians or the CPI – whichever is higher.”  Nice one, Jacqui!

She also wants to introduce a voluntary National Service, Trainee and Apprenticeship Scheme (NSTAS), which will offer “voluntary basic military training and the opportunity to compete for military trade, apprenticeship and trainee courses, to all 18-year-old Australians who are not employed or studying for a university degree, vocational education or trade qualification.”

While she calls it voluntary, completing the scheme will in fact, be a condition of receiving government welfare, if one is not studying full time, in an apprenticeship, working, or ‘physically or psychologically unable to join the ADF’.  She does not say how long one would need to be unemployed and not studying before being required to complete this scheme, or how long the scheme would last, and she makes this somewhat odd statement:

And as was the case during the Vietnam War, where every member of the Australian military who served and fought in Vietnam was a volunteer – every member of the ADF who serves overseas in future war or war-like zones will continue to be volunteers.

(Note – if your number came up during the draft for the Vietnam War, it was compulsory to undertake military training, not compulsory to serve in Vietnam. Many Australians are not aware of this important point in National Service policy.)

I’m not old enough to remember Vietnam, but my parents were of that generation, and this is certainly not the impression they gave me.  I wonder if anyone would like to comment on this?  I’d also like to know if this scheme would be paid?  Surely it would have to be – but I wonder where the money would be found for it.  I am not, in fact, against some form of National Service, though I’d want it to include forms of service that are not military – I think there are advantages to giving people a taste of something completely different that serves the community, and particularly with our current youth unemployment, having an opportunity to gain experience and have some purpose in life is not a bad idea.  But it would have to be designed very carefully, to make it useful rather than disadvantageous.

Jacqui wants fair pensions for veterans, and the automatic grant of a health gold card to anyone who has served in a war-like or war zone – the current process (and why am I not surprised by this?) is complicated, time-consuming, and apparently designed to put people off applying… She also wants to acknowledge and address the suicide rate among veterans.  And she would like an Education bill similar to the GI Bill, providing free University or TAFE education to veterans. These are all good policies, and I think it’s only fair that if we are asking people to risk themselves for us, that we treat them properly when they are done and make sure they have good access to healthcare and educational opportunities.

On Education and Training, in addition to her NSTAS, Jacqui wants to reform and boost the TAFE budget, and establish a certain number of TAFE apprenticeship study courses and positions, rather than relying entirely on the private sector for this.  The goal is to fix our trade skills crisis without relying on importing foreign tradies on 457 visas.  There is a little bit of the protectionist about Jacqui’s policies, and we’ll see more of this later, in a rather less benign form.

On Economics, Jacqui wants to set up Special Economic Zones to stimulate financial growth and employment in regional and rural areas.  This seems to be about subsidising investment in businesses in these zones, or offering employment tax breaks.  Honestly, I’m not too clear on how this works, probably because I do not speak economics – I do agree that our rural and regional areas need help developing, but I can’t tell whether this policy would actually achieve this, or how it would go about trying to do so.  Here’s a little more data for those who understand these things better than me:

JLN acknowledges that because of consistently high unemployment and falling business confidence, economic zones, which guarantees for all Tasmanian business:

  1. a payroll tax free zone
  2. dramatically reduced Bass Strait freight / vehicle / passenger charges; and
  3. the cheapest electricity / gas prices in Australia – indeed the world

…. is the first essential step our state must take on a long journey to recovery.

Jacqui wants a Financial Transactions Tax – but only on large corporations.  She also wants to hit up High Speed Share Traders for more tax, and invest this in retirees and veterans.  She hasn’t quite decided how she feels about reforming negative gearing, but feels that it does need to be discussed.  She opposes raising the GST – and supports its removal from women’s sanitary products.  Sing it, sister!

She also wants to halve our foreign aid to boost investment in Higher Education.  Don’t sing that one, sister, it’s a terrible tune.  Our foreign aid budget has already decreased significantly, and apparently, we include offshore detention centres in this budget.

Also on economics, Jacqui is against the carbon tax and the ETS – not entirely surprising for someone who initially signed up for Palmer United.  She does, in fact, believe in climate change and the need for reducing emissions, but she is more concerned about “the critical need to protect Australian workers’ wages, conditions and job security by ensuring that, when compared with international competitors, our manufacturers, businesses and households are able to access some of the world’s most reliable and cheapest electricity and energy.”

Oh dear.  Essentially, she wants the rest of the world to pull their weight before we up the ante.  But in the meantime, she has a solution – more hydro electricity and a referendum on the introduction of nuclear power generation!  This, I fear, is not going to play well with anyone who grew up in the Cold War or remembers Chernobyl. She notes – quite accurately – that we do have lots of uranium, and thus have “the potential to become the new Saudi Arabia of the 21st Century, which continues to embrace the rapidly advancing technologies and new safer methods of nuclear power generation.”

Wait, we like Saudi Arabia now?

Further on energy, we learn that as an energy rich nation, we should be able to have the cheapest fuel in the world – because the high price of fuel here is costly to business, and makes us unable to compete with the rest of the world, risking jobs.  And then we have this:

An Australia energy and fuel cost crisis will cause more social harm and economic damage in the short to medium term to Australia than any predicted Climate Change, which according to the scientists cannot be stopped because global warming is already locked in for the next 30 to 40 years.

Eek.  I really don’t think this is a good argument

For one thing, if we keep going the way we are, there might not be a long-term.  The long-term issues with not being able to have enough water or produce enough food as temperature rises, are going to cause PRETTY SIGNIFICANT social harm and economic damage.

Look, I do have some sympathy with this on an emotional level.  I’m not a nature girl – I’m all about putting social issues first, and my interest in the environment is primarily because people need it to live in.  But global warming IS a social issue, and we can’t just ignore it because it’s further away.  The JLN has this one wrong.

Jacqui is concerned about food shortages, and notes that only 3.4% of Australia’s ground is prime agricultural land.  She wants to create a policy that would protect all of this land from mining and development.  This sounds sensible.  (Though I do wonder if it isn’t also an issue that when Europeans arrived in Australia they had a tendency to build towns on all the best bits of land, and those towns are now cities, which have spread out and covered a lot of the areas that get the most rainfall.  I can’t imagine a practical policy that would do anything useful about that, however.)

Jacqui wants to establish dedicated indigenous seats in Parliament.  This is an excellent idea, which I have not seen elsewhere.  Go Jacqui!  She notes that there are clear links between indigenous wellbeing and indigenous representation, and points to the example of New Zealand.  I feel that it is hard to go wrong when pointing to the example of New Zealand.  New Zealand is excellent.

And here’s the policy I’ve been saving for last, because I like Jacqui and I want to believe in her but oh dear, she does seem to be a bit too concerned about Halal food.

Actually, it’s not as bad as I feared – she wants all food certification to be easily identified, all fees to be disclosed, and “a formal reporting or auditing mechanism is put in place which will easily allow law enforcement and security agencies to ascertain whether monies paid for certification are misused in the support of terrorist activities.”

I personally find it a little unlikely that Halal certifiers are secretly funding Daesh, but alas, Jacqui finds them deeply suspicious:

Under questioning, in estimates Committee Hearings Attorney General Brandis – Australia’s highest law officer, failed to give Senator Lambie a guarantee that Halal Certification funds were not being used by Islamic terrorists.

OK then.  But on the other side of the scale:

For many cultures, including 80,000 Australians of the Sikh faith – eating Halal certified food is forbidden. And people practicing the Islamic faith – like followers of other peaceful, faiths are entitled to identify and eat food, which conforms to their religious custom.

It is, I think, a bona fide attempt there to be fair and balanced.  And… look, I don’t know where Jacqui served, but I’m guessing that someone who is ex-military and has friends in the military is going to have quite reasonably strong feelings about the Islamic State.  I just don’t think that freaking out about Halal food is the best use of Jacqui’s time.

Now, a quick word about our local Victorian lead candidate, Hugh Dolan. He has a page here.  Like Jacqui, he has a military background, and is concerned about veterans and their families.  However:

He will say “no” to the move towards Halal Certification and the introduction of Sharia Law – the pandering to a militant minority.  He is dead against the Green agenda to cost industry its livelihood and send us back into the Stone Age.  Electricity must remain affordable.

Hugh shares the concern of the silent majority of Victorians who fear the prospect of a cultural Tidal Wave swamping the last vestiges of Australian life.

You know, I wouldn’t mind being represented by Jacqui Lambie.  She hasn’t got everything right, but I think she is heading in the right direction, and she’s open to learning.  Dolan, on the other hand, sounds like he feels he knows it all already – and I don’t like the things he thinks he knows.  There is more than a whiff of racism in that last statement.  And what is with all these people who think we are on the verge of introducing Sharia Law in Australia?  We have a constitution in Austraila, and we have a legal system, and there is no sign that Sharia law is anywhere in our future.  Please, can we just calm down and stop stressing about people who are, on the whole, even more horrified by Daesh than we are?

And that’s the thing.  Jacqui’s independents are just that – independents.  And that’s a good thing – but it does mean you want to keep an eye out for what they themselves are saying they represent.

I hope we get to keep Jacqui in the Tasmanian Senate.  But as for Victoria, if I want to vote for someone colourful, I think I’d rather go with Derryn Hinch.

 

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3 thoughts on “Meet the Small Parties: The Jacquie Lambie Network

  1. My father was a Nasho in Vietnam, and from what I know of his experiences, there’s one thing that Lambie appears to gloss over here: ill feeling between the regulars and the conscripts. The fully trained regulars tended to look down on the conscripts, and the conscripts resented this (and the fact that they were there at all). It’s not a recipe for an efficient military with high morale, which seems at odds with all her other policies that are very much concerned with the morale of our past and present military.

    And while Lambie is herself a veteran, with all due respect for that, she didn’t serve under those conditions. She was a member of an all-volunteer force. I think she’d be well advised to spend a little more time chatting with Vietnam vets about this particular policy.

    • Interesting point, thank you. I have very little knowledge of this area. One thing I do like about Lambie is that she does appear to be willing to listen and learn and change her views given new information, which is a rare and valuable trait in a politician. Or a human.

  2. “Have I mentioned yet that we need more politicians who have had life experiences outside politics? Let me mention it again…”

    *cough* Christopher Pyne *cough*

    And from http://vietnam-war.commemoration.gov.au/conscription/birthday-ballot.php

    “Under the National Service Scheme, twenty-year-old men were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS), they were then subject to a ballot which, if their birth date was drawn, meant the possibility of two years of continuous full-time service in the regular army, followed by three years part-time service in the Army Reserve. As part of their duty, national servicemen on full-time duty were liable for ‘special overseas service’ including combat duties in Vietnam.”

    I don’t really think the armed forces are into giving conscripts the opportunity to decline overseas service. I could of course be wrong, but my strong impression is that they expect you to go where they tell you. And to echo lokic, the army would in general prefer volunteers because the only thing worse than having to train a bunch of very green recruits is to have to train a bunch who don’t want to be there.

    And I’m with you on the Halal /Sharia panic thing. Don’t get it. Also have never heard the claim about Sihks and halal before, must look into that… To the best of my knowledge the only people halal certification affects are observant Muslims. And frankly I’d rather that they were able to eat vegemite in the comforting knowledge that it’s OK.

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