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"My very mixed feelings about Jacqui Lambie."

By KATE LEAVER

Arguably the country’s most unlikely politician, Senator Jacqui Lambie is a walking disaster. She’s crass, thoughtless, and candid to a fault. Not to mention inflammatory, racist, and lewd.

If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that Lambie is the elected member of the federal parliament who thought it was appropriate to talk about wanting a “well-hung man with plenty of cash” on live radio. She thinks we need to start aiming missiles at China before they invade Australia. And she wants bumble bees and mushroom farmers to be a national priority.

Many people think she’s a disgrace. Others think she’s an elaborate practical joke on the Australian public.

But as usual, there’s more to the story. This politician is far more than her public mistakes.

As the ABC’s Australian Story showed last night, Jacqui Lambie has been through a lot.

Jacqui Lambie was once a corporal in the Australian army, working for a decade in our nation’s military. You can tell when she’s talking about her service that she felt noble and important in that position. She loved it.

Lambie lost that rank of corporal when she drunkenly assaulted a fellow soldier and then in 1997, she injured her back. Her injury mean that Lambie was ultimately medically discharged from the army and ended up on the disabilities pension.

Jacqui Lambie in the army (photo: ABC)

And that’s when her life began to spin out of control.

Lambie became depressed and started abusing alcohol and prescription drugs. At the time, she told the ABC, her young son Dylan became her primary carer. She was debilitated, alone, and as she sees it, left behind by the very people she had served for ten years.

In 2009, Jacqui drank and drank until she thought it was a good idea to walk out onto a main road straight in front of a car. She was badly scarred from the incident, and lost two teeth. Last night was the first time she’s ever spoken publicly about that suicide attempt.

Jacqui Lambie with her son, Dylan.

You can watch the full Australian Story episode on Jacqui Lambie here. 

Now that you know all of this, does it change the way you think about Jacqui Lambie? Sure. At least, it does for me.

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She’s a more sympathetic character – I’d even go as far as to say endearing. She comes across as a strong, self-possessed, hard-working woman. She deserves stability for her family. And she deserves our respect for surviving what must have felt like a living hell.

Her entry into the political arena is an unusual one. She doesn’t quite seem equipped for the role. She shoots her mouth off and speaks in a way many would find unbefitting for the high office she holds. As the balance of power in the current Senate, a quirk of the system means that she wields an incredible amount of power. And that makes people (understandably) nervous.

Lambie is “real,” you’ve got to give her that. So “real” that it’s almost like she just got up one day, put on a yellow blazer, walked past security, took a seat in parliament and started voting for stuff. She has no filter, no media training, and often, no idea what she’s doing. And yet… She certainly brings authenticity to politics, which is something the public often craves.

Since last night, I like Jacqui Lambie a lot more.

I no longer write her off as an idiot with nothing meaningful to contribute because I admire her resilience in surviving what she has. In many ways, she is the ultimate “Aussie Battler” and it’s a triumph that she’s made so much of a life that was once so desperate.

I’d like to go to the pub with her, buy her a drink and find out more about her life. But I sure as hell don’t think she’s the best person to be making the decisions that will shape our country’s future. Do you?

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