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Nicholas "Nick" Xenophon[2] (born Nicholas Xenophou 29 January 1959) is a South Australian barrister, anti-gambling campaigner and politician. He attended Prince Alfred College, and studied law at the University of Adelaide, attaining his Bachelor of Laws in 1981. Xenophon established and became principal of his own law firm, Xenophon & Co. in 1984. Between 1994 and 1997 he served as president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers' Association.

No Pokies, the name of his independent ticket in the South Australian Legislative Council, garnered 2.9 percent of the statewide vote at the 1997 state election electing himself on preferences, and 20.5 percent at the 2006 election (or 2.5 quotas), which was unexpected by political commentators. He was elected to the Australian Senate at the 2007 federal election, receiving 14.8 percent. This was still over one full Senate quota, gaining election without the need for preferences. Xenophon shared the balance of power with the Greens and Family First during the 2008-11 Senate parliamentary session, with the Greens holding the sole balance of power since July 2011. Whilst his original 1997 platform centred on anti-pokies, he has since become an advocate in many other areas. Xenophon has been reported in the media as "left-of-centre",[3] while Hansard reveals that Xenophon and the Greens have found common ground on a number of issues.[4]

Education and legal career

Xenophon attended Prince Alfred College and studied law at the University of Adelaide, completing his Bachelor of Laws in 1981. While at University he was for a period a member of the Young Liberals, who helped him secure the editorship of the student newspaper On Dit through vote-rigging, an incident Xenophon says he regrets and helped turned him off party politics.[2] In 1984, he established and became principal of his own law firm, Xenophon & Co., located in Paradise, South Australia, which deals solely with workers compensation and personal injury claims.[5][6] In this field he became successful, and between 1994 and 1997 he served as president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers' Association.[7] After legislation was passed in 1992 by the Bannon Labor government that saw the introduction of poker machines (pokies) into South Australia in 1993, the increased incidence of problem gambling came to Xenophon's attention in his legal practice.[8][9][10]

Parliamentary career

South Australian Legislative Council

At the 1997 state election, Xenophon stood for the South Australian Legislative Council under an Independent No Pokies ticket, advocating the reduction and abolition of poker machines (colloquially known as "pokies"). He received a vote of 2.86 percent, a statewide total of 25,630 votes — much less than the 8.33 per cent needed to be elected in his own right — but by receiving a large number of preferences first from microparties and then from Grey Power, he achieved 1.08 quotas and was elected.[11] This made Xenophon the first Independent elected to the Legislative Council in 60 years.[2]

Following the 1997 election, the Olsen Liberal government required the support of an additional two non-Liberal upper house members in order to pass legislation, with the Australian Democrats retaining the balance of power on three seats. However, defectors from Labor in the upper house, Terry Cameron and Trevor Crothers, often brought Xenophon in to play. In 1998, Xenophon voted with Cameron and the government to proceed with the second reading of the ETSA power sale bill.[12][13] The bill became law when Cameron and Crothers voted with the Liberal government.[14] Following the election of the Rann Labor government at the 2002 state election, the government required an additional five non-Labor upper house members to pass legislation, giving a shared balance of power to the Democrats on three seats, incumbent independents Xenophon and Cameron, with the Family First Party winning their first seat.

Xenophon was an activist for a range of issues apart from the elimination of poker machines, speaking out on consumer rights, essential services, the environment, taxation, and perks for politicians.[6] Xenophon was also vocal in the Eugene McGee hit-run affair, becoming an advocate for the victim's wife, with public opinion eventually forcing the Kapunda Road Royal Commission that led to harsher laws for hit-run offences.[15]

Xenophon is best known for his many media-friendly publicity stunts that have gained him both deep respect and ardent criticism.[9][16] At the 2006 state election, he ran an aggressive campaign and attracted considerable publicity through a range of imaginative stunts, including riding a model locomotive "gravy train" outside Parliament House to protest MPs' superannuation entitlements, parading along Rundle Mall wearing a sandwich board to advertise his campaign, and bringing a small goat to Parliament urging voters not to "kid around" with their vote.[17][18] Despite media speculation that he would struggle to be re-elected due to the major parties preferencing against him, he attracted sufficient funding and volunteers to staff most state booths on polling day.[19] He received 190,958 first preferences or 20.51 per cent of the total vote, enough to not only be re-elected himself, but also to elect the second No Pokies candidate, Ann Bressington.[20][21] His total was 5.46 per cent less than the Liberal Party, and he outpolled the Liberals in some booths, including the entire electoral district of Enfield.[22] Political analysts said Xenophon's vote at the election was drawn almost equally from the two major parties,[23] and that Xenophon had become the new "third force" in South Australian politics.[24] With the Labor government requiring four non-Labor upper house members to pass legislation, No Pokies on two seats shared the balance of power with Family First on two seats, the Democrats on one seat, with the SA Greens winning their first seat.

Australian Senate

Election campaign

On 11 October 2007, Xenophon called a press conference at the Adelaide Zoo in front of the giraffe enclosure, declaring he would "stick his neck out for South Australia" by announcing his resignation from the South Australian Legislative Council in an attempt to gain election to the Australian Senate at the 2007 federal election.[25] His platform consisted of anti-gambling and pro-consumer protection measures, attention to the water crisis affecting the Murray River, ratifying Kyoto, opposition against a "decrease in state rights", and opposition to WorkChoices.[23][26][27]

Following the announcement, ABC election analyst Antony Green predicted that Xenophon would easily win a seat, with Centrebet speculating he would begin on a favourable $1.50 for and $2.70 against. Nick Minchin, a Liberal senator from South Australia and a leader of the party's right faction,[28] urged people not to vote for Mr Xenophon.[29] Xenophon attracted preferences from minor parties such as the Greens, Democrats and Family First, whose preferences would be crucial were he to win less than 14.3% of the vote.[30] Due to differences between federal and state electoral laws, Xenophon's name did not appear above the line on the ticket, and he was represented only by the letter "S" above the line, with voters having to search for his details.[31]

As Xenophon had vacated his Legislative Council seat to run for the Senate, a joint sitting of the South Australian parliament was convened for 21 November 2007 to select Xenophon's replacement. The Rann Labor government agreed to Xenophon's choice of former valuer-general John Darley, who had stood as the third candidate on Xenophon's ticket in 2006.[32] During the joint sitting convened to confirm the nomination, Ann Bressington criticised Xenophon, questioning his integrity and suitability for federal parliament, suggesting that his "anti-politician" image was more spin than reality.[33] She also said Xenophon had demanded she contribute $50,000 towards campaign expenses at the 2006 state election. Xenophon said in response that he was "shocked and hurt" and "deeply upset" that she had failed to share her concerns with him in person, saying "privately and publicly, I have been very supportive of her."[34] Some people whose causes Xenophon had championed also came forward to defend Xenophon. Di Gilcrist, whose husband's hit and run death resulted in the Kapunda Road Royal Commission, was vocal in her rejection of Bressington's comments. In an interview the following day, Ms Gilcrist said "based on my experience not only as a victim who's dealt with Nick but also somebody who's worked with Nick and his office over the last two campaigns and in between, Nick is passionate and he cares and he is empathetic. And he is truly committed."[33][35] Lower House Independent Kris Hanna also defended Xenophon, arguing Bressington had "obviously been out to do some damage" and injure Xenophon's chances of being elected to the Senate.[33]

During the campaign, Xenophon also complained to the Australian Electoral Commission about political advertisements which falsely claimed he would not support rolling back the unpopular WorkChoices laws if elected.[36]

During the final days of the campaign, Xenophon executed his final campaign stunt — walking a large mule down Rundle Mall, allegedly to demonstrate his stubbornness.[37] Xenophon received a total of 148,789 votes, representing 14.78% of enrolled electors. 30,054 of these — about one in five — voted below the line. Only the Labor and Liberal parties (each receiving about 35%) polled more votes.[38][39]

Nick Xenophon in September 2008.

Xenophon's addition to the Senate in mid-2008 resulted in him sharing the balance of power in the Senate with the Australian Greens on five seats and Family First on one seat, the Rudd Labor government requiring the support of all seven, or the opposition, to pass legislation. Xenophon's election was at the expense of a Liberal candidate, without his presence the Coalition may have retained a Senate majority. Xenophon indicated plans to work closely with coalition renegade Barnaby Joyce.[40] Xenophon has been reported in the media as "left-of-centre",[3] whilst Hansard revealed that Xenophon and the Greens find common ground on a number of issues.[4]

In February 2009, the Rudd Government's $42 billion economic stimulus package struggled to see passage through the Senate. After some amendments, the package was supported by Labor, the Greens, and Family First, however Xenophon voted against the package. The package was reintroduced the next morning and this time Xenophon voted with it after some requests were agreed to by the Government. With Xenophon's support the package passed the Senate. Xenophon convinced the government to bring forward $900 million in Murray-Darling basin funds and other water projects, which included $500 million over three years for water buybacks, $200 million in water saving and water management grants for local communities, and $200 million in stormwater harvesting projects.[41][42]

In a speech to the Senate on 17 November 2009, Xenophon labelled the Church of Scientology as a criminal organisation, making allegations of members experiencing blackmail, torture and violence, labour camps and forced imprisonment, and coerced abortions, echoing other criticisms of Scientology.[43][44][45] Xenophon quoted from a letter he received written by Aaron Saxton, a whistleblower on Scientology who had previously served as a senior official within the organization in Australia and the United States.[46] Kevin Rudd stated he shared some of Xenophon's concerns,[47][48] and would consider the call for a parliamentary inquiry.[49] The federal opposition were not so keen on an inquiry.[50] State Crime Command of New South Wales Police confirmed the following day that they had received statements from Xenophon by seven former members, with investigations commencing.[51] A request for a Senate inquiry was not successful, though the Greens voted with Xenophon in support of the proposal.[52] After a subsequent Senate Committee investigation was carried out, a federal parliamentary committee of the Australian Senate recommended on 7 September 2010 that a charities commission be formed, with the purpose of investigating and monitoring transparency of charitable organizations.[53] This recommendation received bipartisan support.[53] Senator Xenophon commented on the report of the committee, "I believe reform is now inevitable. We can't continue to have business as usual when it comes to organisations that have been beyond any reasonable level of accountability."[53] Xenophon emphasized the investigation began as a result of his concerns about Scientology, "This inquiry came about because of legislation I introduced for a public benefit test for religions and charities, and it was as a direct result of being approached by many victims of the Church of Scientology. Their evidence, their complaints played a key role in triggering this inquiry."[53] In September 2011, Xenophon said he was disappointed with a Fair Work Ombudsman's final report into the Church of Scientology.[54]


From July 2011, Xenophon lost his shared balance of power position, with the Greens taking the sole balance of power after a strong showing at the 2010 election. He nominates key issues he will pursue before he is up for re-election at the next Australian federal election as: gaming machine reforms, stopping palm oil from being sold in Australia, and breaking up the supermarket duopoly, as well as better deals for Riverland irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin rescue plan. He said his lack of power won't translate to a diminished voice... "Most of your influence comes from being able to influence the wider debate on an issue, and if you are successful, you can actually change the way the major parties vote. That's what I have done for the past three years and I will continue to do that. I can honestly say I plan to be a pesky, persistent bastard in and out of the Senate for the next three years".[55][56]

Xenophon's anti-pokies stance was bolstered when independent Andrew Wilkie was elected to the federal lower house seat of Denison at the 2010 election. Wilkie was one of four crossbenchers who supported the Gillard Labor minority government following the hung parliament result. Wilkie campaigned heavily against pokies at the election, and immediately began forging ties with Xenophon as soon as it was apparent that he was elected.[57] Wilkie claims that problem gamblers in Australia lose $5 billion each year on pokies.[58] In exchange for Wilkie's support, the Labor government are legislating for mandatory "pre-commitment" technology which would require persons using high-bet machines to pre-commit how much they are willing to bet on a machine before they begin play,[59] as well as introducing safer $1 maximum bet per spin machines which would not require pre-commitment.[60] The plan came under sustained attack from sporting clubs and various businesses which financially benefit from pokie use.[61] Xenophon accused them of misrepresenting plans and creating hype.[62] The Abbott Coalition opposes the plans, with Abbott saying "it is not Liberal Party policy" and it will be "expensive and ineffective". According to polling, the Labor government's plans are supported by a clear majority of voters across the spectrum.[63] AFL boss Andrew Demetriou rejected suggestions that the AFL was joining Clubs Australia in their media campaign.[64][65] Clubs Australia created www.WontWorkWillHurt.com.au as part of their campaign.[66] Commentators from the Nine Network gave planned political arguments without disclosure during commentary of a Semi-Final NRL game, prompting the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to investigate, stating "Channel Nine broadcast political material without adequately identifying it as such during the NRL first preliminary final". One of the accused commentators stated that the remarks were a "directive from up top that it be read by at least somebody". Investigations are predicted to take months.[67][68][69][70] GetUp attempted to counter the anti pre commitment campaign by running political commercials during the NRL grand final.[71][72] Xenophon created a website, www.ItsABigFatLie.com.au, in attempts to counter the attacks.[73] Clubs Australia accidentally posted private content on their website which indicated that clubs are purposely exaggerating the impact of the pre-committment plans.[74] The Greens proposed a modification of the plan to remove the pre-committment and simply institute the $1 bet limit side of the plan. Gillard and Wilkie indicated they are open to the change. Clubs Australia, who had so far amassed a $40 million federal election warchest including $250,000 from Woolworths, claimed it would do even more harm to clubs.[75]

In September 2011, Xenophon controversially used parliamentary privilege to accuse a South Australian Catholic priest of rape, in regard to accusations made about events that occurred in the 1960s. Monsignor David Cappo and the Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson were accused of failing to properly investigate the allegations when made in 2007. All three men deny the Senator's claims. Xenophon decided to use parliamentary privilege after receiving an unsatisfactory response from the Church when advising them of his intentions and ultimatum. Cappo, introduced by Mike Rann early in his Premiership as South Australia's head of his Social Inclusion unit, was set to take on a national role by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Due to the claims, Cappo stepped down from the new position after just one week, as well as from the Social Inclusion Board.[76][77][78][79][80] Several days later, after high-level media coverage, Xenophon indicated he might not have used parliamentary privilege had he known the person he accused was about to take a period of leave.[81]

Xenophon voted against the Clean Energy Bill in November 2011. The carbon tax passed with the Labor government receiving Green support for the legislation in the Senate.[82][83]


^ Parliament House of Australia. "Biography for XENOPHON, Nicholas (Nick)". Retrieved 30 November 2009.
^ a b c Walker, Jamie (28 June 2008). "From brash Young Liberal to Senate linchpin for Nick Xenophon". The Australian. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
^ a b Doherty, Ben (18 October 2007). "Recognise these men? They may hold balance of power". The Age (Melbourne, Australia). Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ a b Smith, Tony (December 2008). "New fangs for the platy-tiger? The Senate and the Rudd Government in 2008". Democratic Audit of Australia. ISSN 1835-6559. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ Xenophon & Co Lawyers website
^ a b Australian Broadcasting Corporation (24 July 2008). "Welcome to the Senate". Q&A: Adventures in Democracy. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ "Quick on the law". The Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia): p. 53. 7 November 1998.
^ Holland, Jesse J. (12 June 1998). "Australian lawmaker visits S.C. to see anti-gambling efforts". Associated Press.
^ a b Davis, Mark (12 October 2007). "Anti-pokies MP could call shots in the Senate". The Sydney Morning Herald: p. 7.
^ Not a pokie in sight: The Australian 8 December 2010
^ Green, Antony. "Legislative Council Background. South Australia Election 2006". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ South Australia: The Australian Journal of Politics and History June 1999
^ Australia debates sell offs as elections loom: Petroleum Economist 2 October 1998
^ Power politics: the electricity crisis and you - google books
^ "Legal eagles discuss justice system". Stateline (ABC). 13 May 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ McGuire, Michael (3 July 2009). Adelaide Advertiser. X marks his spot. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ Ahwan, Lauren (6 February 2006). "SA: Stunt MP turns human sandwich board". Associated Press.
^ Anderson, Laura (18 March 2006). "Vote for me, I kid you not, is Nick's message". The Advertiser: p. 11.
^ Manning, Dr Haydon (December 2006). "Australian Political Chronicle: January-June 2006". Australian Journal of Politics and History 52 (4): 668. ISSN 0004-9522.
^ McCarthy, Dr Greg (20 March 2006). http://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/news10602.html Victory for Labor and Xenophon (Media Release). Retrieved 17 November 2009. McCarthy is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Adelaide.
^ Electoral Commission of South Australia (5 April 2006). "Results for Legislative Council". Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ "The Poll Vault: Xenophon looking good". ABC News Online: Elections. 18 March 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ a b Debelle, Penelope (12 October 2007). "Fearful of Xenophon in Senate". The Age.
^ Lloyd, Megan (19 March 2006). "Election 2006: Mr X has the very last laugh". The Advertiser.
^ "Colourful independent seeks move to Canberra". ABC Online. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
^ Royal, Simon (12 October 2007). "Mr X goes to Canberra". Stateline SA (ABC). Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ Henschke, Ian (12 October 2007). "Live Interview (Senator Natasha Stott Despoja; Megan Lloyd (Messenger Newspapers)". Stateline SA (ABC). Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ Owen, Michael (4 June 2009). "Nick Minchin stirs SA Senate tensions". The Australian. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
^ Haxton, Nance (12 October 2007). "No Pokies MP odds-on for Senate seat". ABC Online. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ Nankervis, David (4 November 2007). "Minor parties prefer Mr X". The Advertiser.
^ "Libs to put heat on Xenophon: analyst". ABC Online. 12 October 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ "SA Govt agrees to Xenophon's choice". ABC Online. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ a b c "MPs stunned by Xenophon blast". ABC Online. 21 November 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ "Nick Xenophon's running mate unleashes extraordinary attack". The Advertiser. 1 November 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
^ Haxton, Nance (22 November 2007). "State MP launches scathing attack on Xenophon". World Today (ABC). Retrieved 19 July 2011.
^ "Xenophon sues over ad". The Australian: p. 5. 21 November 2007.
^ "The X factor". Farm Weekly (Fairfax). 28 June 2008.
^ Australian Electoral Commission (20 December 2007). "Senate - First Preferences by Candidate - SA". Retrieved 17 November 2009.
^ Manning, Dr Haydon (20 December 2007). "South Australians at the polls: The 2007 national election result analysed". Retrieved 17 November 2009. School of Political and International Studies, Flinders University.
^ "Xenophon, Joyce in early Senate talks". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 20 December 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ Hudson, Phillip (13 February 2009). "Senate passes stimulus plan". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia). Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ Gout, Hendrik (20 February 2009). "Senator Xenophon's audacious bluff". The Independent Weekly (Adelaide, Australia). Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ Xenophon, Nick (18 November 2009). "Australian Senator Nick Xenophon's speech on Church of Scientology in full". Times Online (London, United Kingdom). Retrieved 19 November 2009.
^ Bita, Natasha (18 November 2009). "Scientology criminal, says senator Nick Xenophon". The Australian. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ Bita, Natasha (20 November 2009). "Science or fiction?". The Australian. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
^ Viellaris, Renee (17 November 2009). "Senator Nick Xenophon in torture claim against Scientologists". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
^ "Australia mulls Scientology probe". BBC News. 18 November 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
^ "Australian PM voices 'concerns' over Scientology". Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, Canada). 17 November 2009.
^ "Police assess Scientology allegations". ABC Online. 18 November 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
^ AAP (19 November 2009). "Scientology inquiry rebuff a 'cop out'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
^ Bita, Natasha (19 November 2009). "Police take up Scientology complaints". The Australian. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
^ Davis, Mark (19 March 2010). "Senate rejects inquiry on Scientology". The Age (Melbourne, Australia). Retrieved 19 March 2010.
^ a b c d "Bipartisan support for charities commission". ABC News (Australia Broadcasting Corporation). 7 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
^ Xenophon disappointed by Scientology report: Lateline 16 September 2011
^ South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon set to lose balance of power: The Advertiser 15 June 2011
^ Farmers pay price for our groceries: AdelaideNow 8 September 2011
^ Wilkie, Xenophon team up against pokies: ABC The World Today 26 August 2010
^ Poker Machines - AndrewWilkie.org
^ Wilkie's Gamble: ABC Four Corners 20 June 2011
^ Andrew Wilkie complains about opposition to his poker machine plans: The International 1 September 2011
^ Wilkie is fearless on pokies says Xenophon: NineMSN 26 September 2011
^ Mr X hits back at pokies 'lies': AdelaideNow 26 September 2011
^ Liberal voters support pokies crackdown: Herald Sun 11 October 2011
^ AFL boss rejects talk of pokie reform campaign: ABC 26 September 2011
^ Shut up, AFL tells pokies campaigners: SMH 26 September 2011
^ Won't Work Will Hurt: Clubs Australia
^ "Channel 9 support campaign against MPC during NRL semi final broadcast" - Youtube
^ Andrew Wilkie blows the whistle on Channel Nine: Daily Telegraph 2 October 2011
^ Media watchdog to probe NRL commentators: SMH 4 October 2011
^ Channel Nine investigated over pokies comments: ABC 4 October 2011
^ GetUp to air pokies ad during grand final: SMH 2 October 2011
^ Rob U Blind - Pokies HD, by GetUp - Youtube
^ It's A Big Fat Lie: By Senator Xenophon
^ Clubs Australia private strategy paper calls for trailer-mounted ATMs to circumvent Federal Government's poker machine reforms: News Ltd 9 October 2011
^ Pokies $1 limit 'favoured': The Age 15 October 2011
^ Xenophon speech puts parliamentary privilege in spotlight: ABC 7.30 report 15 September 2011
^ Xenophon overstepped the mark on parliamentary privilege: SMH 15 September 2011
^ Cappo steps down amid rape furore: SMH 15 September 2011
^ Nick Xenophon's defends his actions to name and shame a Catholic priest: AdelaideNow 17 September 2011
^ Cappo 'refused' to put claim to Rome: The Australian 17 September 2011
^ Xenophon defends naming SA priest: SMH 25 September 2011
^ Senate passes carbon price law: News Ltd 8 November 2011
^ Nick Xenophon on the carbon tax: 2GB Audio 11 July 2011

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