The view from Billinudgel

Farewell to the fallen
Saturday’s federal election halted the political careers of some well-known – and unknown – figures

Spare a thought for the losers. No, we don’t just mean the hapless and bewildered voters, or even Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Mark Textor, and we certainly don’t mean those who have retired on comfortable, if not outrageous, pensions.

No, we mean the ones who have really gone down the gurgler – the ones who lost their seats, or failed to find them, or sought to retrieve them without success.

The most prominent of the last category are the two polar opposites, Sophie Mirabella in Indi and Tony Windsor in New England. Windsor once described Mirabella as “the nastiest – I reckon that if you put it to a vote to all politicians she’d come up number one”. Whether or not this could be confirmed, Mirabella was once again clobbered by the more congenial Cathy McGowan.

Of course, impartial observers often regarded Windsor as one of the best of the bunch, but the conservatives never forgave him for backing Julia Gillard. On Saturday he failed to defeat his nemesis, Barnaby Joyce.

And may I send commiserations and a cheerio to Janelle Saffin in Page, who was again beaten by the nondescript but very well funded Kevin Hogan. She deserved better.

Of those hoisted from the House of Reps on Saturday, probably the most prominent was Wyatt Roy, Malcolm Turnbull’s young assistant innovation minister, in Longman. Roy was a key figure in the conspiracy that toppled Tony Abbott, which meant Turnbull owed him. But Roy was also embroiled in the Peter Slipper affair, still the subject of a police inquiry, so Turnbull’s grief may be somewhat assuaged.

Another notable casualty was Andrew Nikolic, the right-wing lieutenant of the Tasmanian conservative war lord Eric Abetz. Nikolic became one of the regular casualties of the revolving door in Bass. No doubt Abetz will regret his going. Few others will.

Keen historians will recall that one of the key aims of the double dissolution and the interminable campaign was to clean out the minor parties in the Senate. And to some extent it has succeeded.

Although Senate counting continues, it seems like Glenn Lazarus and Ricky Muir have left the building, despite the hopes of their followers that they might hang on. So, most likely, have Dio Wang, John Madigan, Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm, who will not be greatly missed.

So, six down. The problem is that they will be replaced by what may easily be seen as a still more motley and recalcitrant bunch. And at least a couple of Coalition senators, as well as one Labor and one Green, have also gone. If Malcolm Turnbull was having trouble herding the last lot of cats, he ain’t seen nothing yet.

There have been many other friends (and enemies) among the casualties. Almost every general election is a bloodbath, and although the statisticians are assiduous about computing the body count, the vast majority of the fallen are buried in unmarked graves.

Perhaps it is time to inaugurate a memorial to the Unknown Politician: the backbencher, not so much a has-been as a never-was, one of the humble foot soldiers who obeyed the call of the party and of the whips and then fell unnoticed and unmourned.

Or perhaps not. Best we forget.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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