David Leyonhjelm realized he could win an Australian Senate seat when his small Liberal Democratic Party scored the plum spot for the Sept. 7 election — the top, left-hand corner of the ballot sheet in New South Wales state. “That was just complete luck,” said the 61-year-old former veterinarian, who said he wants to broker deals with the Liberal-National coalition government if his place in the 76-seat upper house is confirmed. Some “confused” voters may have mixed up his group with the Liberal party of Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott, he added. Leyonhjelm and six others from tiny, mostly center-right parties are set to hold the balance of power in the upper house from July 1, complicating Abbott’s legislative agenda even as his coalition won a majority in the lower house. While they may back Abbott on his promise to repeal the previous Labor government’s carbon price mechanism and mining tax, his maternity-leave plan costing A$5.5 billion ($5.1 billion) a year could be blocked.
The success of the parties dubbed the “micro right” in the Senate, plus a greater share of the primary vote in the lower house, reflects a drift from the major political groupings at the election as voters tired of years of Labor infighting and a lack of policy heft from the coalition.
“Abbott will be under pressure to build relationships with these people to get deals done,” said Haydon Manning, a politics professor at Flinders University in Adelaide. “While their agendas are vague at this stage, it’s fair to say most of the parties seem right of the center. The result shows voters are a bit disenfranchised with the major parties.”