Australia

Tasmanian independent senator Steve Martin joins the Nationals

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The Turnbull government has boosted its numbers in the Senate by one, with Tasmanian Steve Martin joining the Nationals.

Tasmanian independent senator Steve Martin has joined the Nationals, boosting the Turnbull government's numbers in the upper house.

The former Tasmanian mayor made the switch less than six months after he was elected to the Senate on a special recount to replace Jacqui Lambie.

He becomes the second independent senator the Turnbull government has recruited, after South Australian Lucy Gichuhi, and takes the coalition's votes to 31 in the 76-seat upper house.

"One of the core reasons I entered federal politics was to strengthen Tasmanian communities and businesses," Senator Martin told reporters in Devonport on Monday.

"Joining the Nationals and relaunching the party in Tasmania today is certainly a big step forward in achieving that vision."

Nationals leader Michael McCormack likened the party’s newest elected member to the Tasmanian tiger, saying he would be an “absolute tiger in there fighting for the interests of Tasmanians”.

Mr Martin took the Senate seat vacated by his former party leader in February when the High Court kicked Ms Lambie out of parliament for holding a dual citizenship.

Mr Martin was the second candidate on the Lambie ballot paper for the Senate in Tasmania, hence his election in the recount.

But Senator Martin had a fallout with Ms Lambie and was booted from the party before he began his term. He has voted as an independent senator until now. 

Lambie hits out at Martin

Ms Lambie has slammed Mr Martin's decision to join the Nationals, calling it a "marriage of convenience for two increasingly desperate parties".

She also described her former team member the "country's loneliest senator".

“It looks like a marriage of convenience for two increasingly desperate parties — the drifting Nationals in the post-Barnaby era and the country’s loneliest Senator, Steve Martin,” Ms Lambie said in a statement.

“The Nationals have a track record of promising, setting up and then backing out. In 2013 they pushed hard for a branch in Tasmania, with registration at state level but they cut the Tasmanian members loose, abandoned them and even threatened legal action to shut them down.

“What is going to be different this time? Nothing. This is a demonstration of the irreversible breakdown that is occurring within the Coalition government.

“I can only wish the new National Party a better start in Tasmania than on the last three attempts and I can only hope that the people of Tasmania get the level of representation that they deserve.”

 

 

 

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