opinion

MIKE SMITHSON: Jacqui Lambie is courting SA independent senator Rex Patrick but will it end in tears?

Mike Smithson
The Nightly
Jacqui Lambie is looking to recruit former SA independent Senator Rex Patrick, but could it end in tears?
Jacqui Lambie is looking to recruit former SA independent Senator Rex Patrick, but could it end in tears? Credit: MT SS/AAPIMAGE

Canberra could soon be preparing for a political blast from the past.

Former SA independent senator Rex Patrick is being courted by an emerging powerhouse whose presence in the senate rarely goes unnoticed.

Jacqui Lambie wants Patrick in her ranks to push agendas that usually capture headlines and leave the major parties on edge and uncomfortable.

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But it’s not as straightforward as Lambie may wish.

Neither character is a shrinking violet and an immediate collision course is possible by pairing ex-army officer Lambie, with ex-submariner Patrick.

Former Senator Rex Patrick is no shrinking violet.
Former Senator Rex Patrick is no shrinking violet. Credit: JC PP/AAPIMAGE

Patrick, 57, spends most of his time, after losing his senate seat in 2022, now fighting public policy which he considers wrong.

That’s often with high-flying barristers across a bar table in various court jurisdictions.

As I discovered, the brewing match-up doesn’t yet have a media strategy.

I stumbled upon it in a near empty café in the heart of Adelaide on a recent cold winter’s night.

Patrick was sitting two tables away working on his laptop when our idle chatter turned to his life after politics.

That’s when he explained the Lambie experiment was in motion and that he was seriously considering her overtures.

I cautioned him that, as a journalist, I’m always on the lookout for a good story and he invited me to give her a call, which I did.

Lambie’s abrupt conversational nature was immediately to the point.

She was full of praise for her former senate colleague who sat near her on the cross bench but not as a defined voting duo.

According to her, Patrick already does public policy work for her as a private citizen, so why not officially join her and get paid for it.

She added that he’d better make up his mind quickly with an early federal election looming as a possibility.

Mike Smithson.
Mike Smithson. Credit: 7NEWS

Patrick, who’s been highly outspoken on the $368 billion AUKUS submarine project, says he’s not intimidated by Lambie.

He says she’s not afraid to speak her mind, and neither is he.

Both parties agree there might be areas of disagreement, but they should be manageable.

How often have we heard that in politics before it ends in tears?

Clearly there are many hurdles to be jumped before Patrick runs his race to become the second Jacqui Lambie Network senator in Canberra.

He knows her star is on the ascent, especially in Tasmania, where her party picked up three lower house seats in the recent state election.

But getting over the line with a big enough quota in SA is another task altogether.

That’s why he’s closely awaiting the results of a mystery phone poll being conducted in SA.

Neither he nor Lambie commissioned the poll, but I suspect it’s climate related, perhaps with a focus on future teal candidates in the southern state.

It specifically asks respondents their thoughts on a potential political return of Patrick.

If there is little or no appetite in those results, Patrick is unlikely to have an overnight bag packed for Canberra ever again.

But he knows how to get under the skin of power brokers.

His other life involves a stream of freedom of information requests, with hundreds lodged to uncover what he perceives as dodgy practices or downright deceit.

He’s happy in that job, but the lure of another tilt in the big house on the hill is proving tempting.

Patrick also had a red hot go at running for Adelaide Lord Mayor in 2022, but lost to Jane Lomax-Smith, a former SA government minister, by 52 votes.

So, with all balls still in the air, Patrick knows decision day is coming soon.

As it currently stands, he’d like to run for the Senate, but plenty can still go wrong.

In winning the required quota, he would need to knock one of six existing senators off the perch in South Australia.

In the upcoming half-senate election, the Libs are looking solid with top-of-the-ticket contenders Alex Antic and Anne Ruston.

Sarah Hanson-Young is also a shoo-in for the Greens.

Labor’s two-person ticket also looks secure.

That means Patrick will be eyeing off Liberal veteran David Fawcett’s remaining spot.

For this former navy officer, tactics are everything.

Mike Smithson is chief reporter and presenter for 7NEWS Adelaide.

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