Former Senator Jacqui Lambie’s career has been somewhat problematic.
The news of her resignation, following confirmation she is a dual-citizen, has left many a bit displaced. A bit unsure of how to feel about a person who so deeply divided our community, and yet embodied what we consider as a core Australian value: bloody hard work.
When trying to unpack this complicated box of emotions towards Lambie, someone told me, “I like her, but I don’t respect her.”
Since her election in 2013, the attitude towards her has changed. From this “bogan”, “racist” Tasmanian, Lambie has somehow mastered a public image shift to become the “Aussie battler” fighting for the middle-class.
The loss of Lambie to the Australian Parliament is one that divides me, and many others.
Let me be clear, we are worlds apart on many of her policies and worldviews, particularly on social issues. Her attacks on minority groups, particularly Muslims and those who practice Sharia law, parallel that of Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump. They are sickening.
Nonetheless, we cannot deny that Lambie has changed the way we do politics in Australia. Despite her unexpected exit, she has changed our nation. For the good, for the bad, and for all the greys in between.
#1: ‘Working class act’
"Any old parliament could turn up a Malcolm Turnbull or a Tony Abbott or a Julie Bishop or a Bill Shorten," she wrote.
"They all went to the right schools. They all know the right people. They’ve all had the polish applied to their manners, and their mien."
In contrast, Lambie turned up in her very, very bright yellow dress and demanded her spot in the nation's capital.
She wasn't a career politician. She hadn't spent decades as a staffer or party member, waiting for pre-selection. Lambie felt unrepresented by the very place that is meant to represent her, so she stood up for what she believed in.
Regardless of whether I share her opinions, her tenacity and utter determination to make an impact, her attitude feels rare in our well-polished Parliaments.
Listen: Jacqui Lambie talks about her darkest moment. (Post continues after audio.)
#2: Sharia. Burqas. Religion.
It should be without question that of the many social policies Lambie put forward, this is the one I most vehemently disagree with.
In fact, it may be an extension to say she had "policies". It was just lots of opinion. Filled with inaccuracies, disrespect, and a severe lack of empathy.
She made calls to ban the burqa, supported Donald Trump's ban on Muslims - and even went a step further to ban migration for "months" - and most famously, heatedly debated Sharia law with Yassmin Abdel-Magied.
I shan't relive the entire interaction but among her memorable quotes she said, "Anybody who supports Sharia law in this country should be deported."
What followed Abdel-Magied was torrents of abuse, that although not specifically articulated by Lambie, didn't help the situation.
Speaking to Mia Freedman on the podcast No Filter, Lambie commended Abdel-Magied on her conduct.
"For such a young girl she's done very well for herself, you can't take that credit away from her," she said.
"Doesn't matter what race you are, what religion you are, you pay credit where credit is due."
Sharia law is the law of extremists and terrorists. Why should we allow sharia law supporters a vote or receive public funds?
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) September 15, 2014
If we learn anything from Lambie's persecution of Muslims, sadly, it is that she is not alone in her views.
It becomes our responsibility to educate and work with fellow Australians for unity, rather than banning them.
#3: Her advocacy on veterans' affairs
Prior to being a politician, the 46-year-old served in the Australian Defence Force, which left her with a chronic back injury.
For the next decade, she fought the Department of Veterans' Affairs to receive medical treatment and compensation. Her dissatisfaction with the system led her to be a ferocious campaigner and voice for soldiers after they returned home.
She shone a spotlight on their suicide rate and raised their wages during her time in Parliament.
— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) October 27, 2017
Her voice was relentless. For people like me, who just assumed those who served their country would be taken care of, she made me aware.
#4: A "well-hung" man. Good lord.
Listening to this interview again, I forgot the entire conversation.
I forgot how...problematic it is.
After being asked by the hosts about her love life, she joked about her ideal man.
"They must have heaps of cash and a package between their legs. They don't even need to speak," she said.
Which, if a man even uttered this sentence, YOU WOULD FIND ME TWEETING WITH ANGRY CAPS LOCK DEMANDING THEIR RESIGNATION.
Perhaps it was the brutal honesty that achieved her an 8.3% swing her way during the 2016 election. Perhaps.
#5: The ice epidemic and her son.
If one was to trace the moment the tide turned on Lambie, I was bet it was this one.
In a tearful speech to the Senate, Lambie brought a face to the ice epidemic.
“I am a senator of Australia and I have a 21-year-old son that has a problem with ice, and yet even with my title I have no control over my son," she said.
“I can’t involuntarily detox my own son, because I am not talking to my son anymore, I’m talking to a drug.
“And I can tell you, I’m not the only parent out there. There is [sic] thousands of us.”
A colleague of mine, who identified so closely with Lambie's speech, said that this was the moment she felt heard.
"Jacqui's speech about her son's ice addiction meant something to me and my family. Because it could've been my family, she said."
"And it is so many Australian families. Jacqui made parents in the same position feel seen and heard, like they're not alone and it's not their fault. And she put a human face and human emotions to an issue many would rather see as something to be ashamed of."
This theme of honesty only amplified Lambie's presence in Australian discourse, with many learning of her attempted suicides, struggle as a single mum, and the reality of living on welfare.
#6 Cory Bernadi. Full stop.
If we can agree on one thing, Lambie is your no-bullshit type person.
Sometimes we love it, sometimes we hate it.
You can listen to Jacqui Lambie's full interview with Mia Freedman, here:
When she talked about fellow Senator, Cory Bernardi, Lambie cut through the bullshit and we all sat clapping.
Talking to Annabel Crabb on Kitchen Cabinet, she was asked about the people in Parliament she didn't like.
"There’s been a couple of times I’ve thought about jumping out of my seat and going across the floor," she said.
"Who would be your first victim, do you reckon?" Crabb asked.
"[Cory] Bernardi ... Yeah. He’s just an a*rsehole. Typical, ‘Hello, I’m born with a silver spoon up my rear end’."
Farewell, Jacqui Lambie. If you have taught us anything during your time in Parliament it is the value of hard work. It is the ability to laugh at someone's joke (read: Bernadi) and feel outraged at their views (read: burqa ban).
It is shades of grey. And, you have so many.