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The rise of Lambie

Jacqui Lambie.NOBODY knew it at the time, but the federal Liberals’ Braddon preselections in 2012 would ultimately change the face of Australian politics.

They would lead to:

■ Political whirlwind Jacqui Lambie joining Palmer United – with which she spectacularly split during the week – and entering the Senate;

■ a significant chunk of the difficulty the Abbott government faces getting bills through the Senate;

■ the potential demise of the Palmer United Party;

■ Brett Whiteley, who was not even a contender in the first of the two preselection votes, winning back Braddon for the Liberals; and,

■ the start of Senator Lambie’s deep and frequently expressed dislike of senior Tasmanian Liberal Eric Abetz (and whatever role it plays in her reluctance to support government legislation).

Here’s how it happened –


The three-way March 2012 contest to be chosen to challenge Labor’s Sid Sidebottom for Braddon featured an enthusiastic Liberal hopeful named Jacqui Lambie, an ex-soldier passionate about a better deal for veterans.

Lawyer and farmer Glynn Williams and Devonport-based real estate businessman Michael Burr were the other contenders.

Liberal preselectors went for Mr Burr.

It is believed Mr Williams ran a fairly close second, with Senator Lambie third.

It was said several sitting Liberal MPs campaigned behind the scenes on behalf of Mr Burr.

There was certainly some serious number crunching going on in the lead-up to the vote, with one senior Liberal figure predicting the outcome to The Advocate extremely accurately.

Senator Lambie this week said Mr Williams should have won the preselection.

“It shouldn’t be Whiteley in that seat, it should have always been Glynn,” she said.

“He had it all over me and Burr.

“Compared to Glynn, Michael and I looked like preschoolers.

“The only question that needs to be asked is how much did Abetz have to do with this and what exactly was Whiteley doing there on the day? It was a set-up.”

Senator Abetz said: “That [claiming a set-up] is an easy thing to say, but I think people would like to hear some proof because I categorically deny it”.

“I had no advocacy role in the preselection.

“. . . I rang nobody, I wrote to nobody, I didn’t lobby anybody.”

Liberal rules do not allow MPs to vote in preselections.

Mr Whiteley was not an MP at the time.


Later in 2012, Mr Burr gave up the candidacy for health reasons.

Former state Liberal MHA Mr Whiteley – who had been expected to try to regain his state seat in the 2014 Tasmanian election – decided to run in the new federal preselection contest.

As did Mr Williams.

Businesswoman Joan Rylah – a future state Liberal MHA – also ran.

Mr Whiteley won the contest, and the job to take Braddon back from Labor and Mr Sidebottom.

People close to the issue say there were matters going on in the background of that preselection that did not help Mr Williams.

Senator Lambie – a friend of Mr Williams – came to view Senator Abetz as a driving force behind that.

Her dislike of Senator Abetz started with the preselections.

Senator Abetz said: “The personal animus Senator Lambie has expressed towards me is not reciprocated by me in any way”.

Senator Lambie, disillusioned with the Liberals, later emerged as an independent candidate for the Senate, and was thought to be some sort of rough chance.

She signed up with billionaire Clive Palmer’s new Palmer United Party, later saying she did so because she needed money for her campaign.

It worked.

She squeaked into the Senate in the September 2013 election.

If not for Senator Lambie, Liberal Sally Chandler would have taken the Senate spot.

That would have given the Abbott government a better chance of getting legislation through a largely hostile Senate than it now has, especially with Senator Lambie threatening to vote against legislation until the government improves pay rises for military personnel.


Senator Lambie’s chief of staff, Rob Messenger, said her animosity towards Senator Abetz had grown because of the renewable energy target brought in by a previous Coalition government and what she saw as Senator Abetz’s inaction in fixing the disadvantages she believed it caused Tasmania.

Mr Messenger said the RET pushed up energy costs for every Tasmanian by at least 3.6 per cent, and heavy “penalties” paid by big energy users had put some of Tasmania’s biggest employers in danger.

“There are 10,000 jobs swinging on this,” Mr Messenger said.

Mr Messenger said the RET did not count Tasmania’s 100 per cent renewable energy generation (mostly through hydro power) or the Snowy Mountains scheme.

Senator Abetz said he was employment minister and the RET was not in his portfolio.

He said the government had had the scheme reviewed and was now working through matters.


Senator Lambie’s falling out with Mr Palmer and subsequent resignation from the party left the PUP in a difficult position.

It seems incredible to say, but someone who was hardly known outside North-West Tasmania two years ago has become a bigger “star” nationally than the colourful Queensland magnate.

Mr Palmer will not fade away quickly or easily, but remaining PUP senators Dio Wang and Glenn Lazarus are not getting much national cut-through.

With their recent Morgan Poll results dismal even before Senator Lambie’s defection, the PUP looks headed the way of One Nation and the Australian Democrats unless Mr Palmer can find a game changer.

Chances are it won’t be a tough-talking, independent-minded ex-soldier from Tasmania.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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