Wooing the Cross Bench

The Senate result is in, and the cross-bench even more unwieldy than before. The most concerning element, as the SMH says, is the four One Nation Senators.


pic: Velovotee

‘…the result will turn Ms Hanson into a Senate powerbroker. The Turnbull government will need her bloc, plus Mr Xenophon’s, to pass any bills opposed by Labor and the Greens.

If it keeps its four senators united, One Nation could also team up with Labor and the Greens to form a blocking majority on any bill.’

The other one to watch is the Nick Xenophon Team of three.

At first sight the omens for the plebiscite do not look good. It could pass the new Senate 44-31 even if opposed by both the Greens and ALP. But it may not be that simple.  On the basis of public statements, the FOR and AGAINST camps each have 35 reasonably certain votes. The rest appear to be up for grabs.

FOR: 35

30 government senators, plus 4 One Nation, plus Jackie Lambie

As well as Ms Hanson, One Nation has former coal mine manager Malcolm Roberts from Queensland, and long-time party executive Brian Burston from NSW.

The other Senator-elect is Rod Culleton, who was convicted of larceny in NSW and awaiting sentencing, and is up on a stealing charge in WA later this month, over the alleged theft of a hire car. He’s appealing the NSW conviction, but candidates awaiting or serving sentences for crimes carrying sentences of more than 12 months can’t take up a seat in Parliament.

One Nation, like PUP, has a history of poor party cohesion and discipline, and so might be splittable.


26 Labor senators, plus the Greens 9 – but we shouldn’t discount the possibility of Labor and or the Greens doing a deal with the government. It depends what they’re offered.

Undecided Probably FOR: 2

David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm will support a plebiscite, but wants Parliament to pass a same sex marriage bill beforehand, including a provision requiring the Governor-General to only sign the bill into law if the YES vote wins. He’s not likely to get what he wants, either: no telling which way he will jump.

Bob Day (Family First) thinks a plebiscite is pointless and wants a referendum and a constitutional change to ban same-sex marriage instead. But he isn’t going to get it, so he may well go with the plebiscite as better than nothing.

That would get the pro vote to 37

Undecided Probably AGAINST: 4


Nick Xenophon: pic Marley Cook

The Nick Xenophon Team of three. Xenophon is on record saying he would urge the PM to reconsider a marriage equality plebiscite because he thinks the money could be better spent, but won’t lock himself in yet. As with One Nation, we don’t know how well NXT will hang together.

The new Senators are Stirling Griff and Skye Kakoschke-Moore. Very little is known about Ms Kakoschke-Moore, but Griff, who is a longtime friend and supporter of Xenophon, says he is

“…left-wing on social issues such as gay marriage. “People are people. Marriage equality is not an issue for me, not at all.”

Derryn Hinch isn’t keen on a plebiscite either, but is also not ready to commit himself one way or another. He’s firmly in favour of same sex marriage but…

Image Copyright Natwick 2016

Image Copyright Natwick 2016

“If there is a marriage equality plebiscite or free vote (our preferred option), Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party will be supporting same sex marriage. We believe in equality for all Australians.”

If these two come down against a plebiscite that would take the NO vote to 39, and it would not get up. But with the government desperate to do deals and the cohesion of the new parties untested (as well as the cleverness of the rookie members), anything can happen. The plebiscite could still be on.

Lobbying the Cross-Bench

Ivan Hinton-Teoh and the just.equal team, backed up by Rodney Croome, Shelley Argent and Brian Grieg, will be working hard to get crossbenchers to vote down the plebiscite: you can lend you voice by signing their petition to the cross-benchers.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)