Who knows what's next for NXT?

Who knows what's next for NXT? Crossbench party enters a period of stasis


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The Nick Xenophon team (L-R) Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore Senator Stirling Griff Rebekha Sharkie member for Mayo and Senator Nick Xenophon at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 29 August 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Nick Xenophon team (L-R) Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore Senator Stirling Griff Rebekha Sharkie member for Mayo and Senator Nick Xenophon at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 29 August 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares

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Remaining members of the fledgling Nick Xenophon Team cannot say who will lead them, nor how they will conduct themselves.

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Remaining members of the fledgling Nick Xenophon Team cannot say who will lead them, nor how they will conduct themselves despite holding the fate of government legislation in their hands as a crucial three vote Senate bloc.

Lesser known members of the "team" elected under the name of their high-profile leader, learned last week they would be without the captain even if the High Court rules he was validly elected in the double dissolution election of 2016.

His shock return to the South Australian scene, a little more than a year into his six-year Senate term, will occur through a negative High Court finding or via his voluntary resignation.

This means the group's rookie senators and single lower house MP will have to reconfigure quickly and plough on in Canberra as the NXT in name only.

While NXT members say publicly they expect Senator Xenophon to continue leading negotiations with the Turnbull government, they acknowledge they have no sense how long that will work and privately concede his involvement will inevitably wane as he becomes preoccupied with South Australia.

As the most experienced parliamentarian, and lead negotiator, his absence will also be felt on the government side. However Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie revealed this week that in past negotiations, all four NXT members had generally tagged along anyway.

Ms Sharkie also expressed confidence in Senator Xenophon's continued leadership even as an ex-federal parliamentarian.

"We normally have our meetings in Canberra but we will, while we're a small team, be having many of those meetings in Adelaide," she said.

Some public speculation has tended towards Stirling Griff becoming leader, although there is a case also for the current party whip, Skye Kakoschke-Moore. Her duties to date have necessitated close scrutiny of every piece of contentious legislation, and frequent contact with other parties.

So novel are the circumstances confronting the party, and so new are its representatives anyway, that a kind of voluntary stasis prevails.

"As far as I'm concerned, Nick is the leader of the federal team and will continue to be going forward," Senator Kakoschke-Moore told Fairfax Media.

The party room, with Senator Xenophon still at the helm, will convene in Canberra on Monday morning to assess its options, with insiders hoping the tenor of the current High Court deliberations will have provided some guidance as to its likely verdict.

If Senator Xenophon was not validly elected, due to having unwitting held dual Australian-UK citizenship, then he is out immediately.

His spot - the balance of a plum six-year term - would likely go to the next in line, business consultant, and economist, Tim Storer who was the number four on the NXT Senate ticket.

If however, the court finds Senator Xenophon was validly elected, his resignation will create a casual vacancy allowing his party to nominate a replacement.

This circumstance seems to favour Rex Patrick, currently a senior adviser to the leader, and known to be close to him.

Other names have also been mentioned, including the former candidate in the federal lower house seat of Adelaide, Joe Hill, who picked up 12.8 per cent of the primary vote against the sitting Kate Ellis, and another Xenophon staffer, Connie Bonaros.

"We need to get through the High Court case, and then determine who the replacement senator is so we can have discussion as a team about the more practical aspects of Nick no longer being in the Senate. But when we started out as a team last year we had to work these types of things out too, it was just that Nick was in Canberra with us, now he will be in Adelaide but we will approach it the same way," said Senator Kakoschke-Moore.

The party advised that Mr Storer will not discuss the situation until the High Court has ruled on the citizenship seven.

The story Who knows what's next for NXT? first appeared on Farm Online.

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