Libertarians now hold the balance of power in the Australian senate

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The Australian General Election has seen a surge in support for candidates with libertarian views. David Leyonhjelm, treasurer of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is set to become a senator of the New South Wales (NSW) region. The Party as a whole has increased its share of the vote from 1.81% in 2010 to 8.87% in this election.

The LDP, founded in 2001, has a broadly libertarian platform and an ideology of small government and individual responsibility. Their policies include a 20% flat tax on income, privatisation & deregulation of industry, opening Australian agriculture to foreign investment and opposition to industry subsidies & corporate welfare. They also support gay marriage, legalising marijuana and allowing assisted suicide.

The party, and Leyonhjelm in particular, are stronger defenders of gun rights. Leyonhjelm was a member of the Liberal Party until 1996 in response to John Howard’s restrictive gun law reforms. Leyonhjelm believes that the US Sandy Hook massacre could have been prevented if teachers had been armed – “Arming the good guys is how you prevent the bad guys from causing harm”.

There are six available senate seats in the NSW region. Senators are elected under a Single Transferrable Vote (STV) system, where voters have a single vote allocated to their preferred candidate. The candidate with most votes is allocated a seat, and the one with the least is eliminated, with back-up preferences being allocated to the remaining candidates in order of stated preferences.

By winning the fifth of sixth seats in NSW Leyonhjelm beat Arthur Sinodinos, considered a rising star in the Liberal Party. As one of eight independent senators, he holds a balance of power position. Although the Liberals and their coalition partners, the National Party, have a plurality of seats in the upper house, they lack a majority. Approval by the senate is required for bills initiated by the government and House of Representatives.

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