One of the most simultaneously intriguing and terrifying elements in politics is the extent to which teeny-tiny events can have horrifying unintended consequences.
How could Hillary Clinton possibly have known, when back in 2001 as a new Senator she took her young staffer Huma Abedin along to a Martha's Vineyard Democratic National Committee retreat, that Abedin would there meet and fall in love with Anthony Weiner, a man whose propensity for sharing snapshots of his nether regions with schoolgirls would – a decade-and-a-half later – devastate the campaign of Hillary for President?
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In his unique style, One Nation Senator Rod Culleton responds to news his election win will be challenged in the High Court. Courtesy ABC News 24.
Looking back, that might have been an away-day to miss.
Similarly, when farmer and businessman Rod Culleton – in a fit of anger – snatched the key to a tow truck waiting to repossess his leased farm vehicle near Guyra in 2013, it is very unlikely that he, or indeed anyone involved, foresaw that this confrontation would three years later create an exciting new opportunity for the High Court to make the Australian Senate even more miserable for the government of Malcolm Turnbull than it already was.
Thursday was a complicated day for democracy fans, myself included.
On one hand, the potential loss of two senators in a 48-hour period strays distinctly into what Oscar Wilde would have deemed carelessness.
On the other: What red-blooded Australian voter – schooled in this nation's 115-year electoral tradition of first electing a government in the Lower House, then carefully selecting a team of lunatics in the Senate to make that government's life a living hell – could be completely immune to a man who describes his theft of a $7.50 key as "like stealing a scone off someone's plate"?
Show me an Australian whose heart did not swell with a kind of pride when Culleton, in his Thursday press conference, described constitutional law as "right up my vegie patch", and I'll show you an un-Australian.
"I'm not sure whether I'm gonna participate in any High Court jurisdiction and if I do I'll simply go down, shear a sheep and take the belly fleece and stick it over my head and represent myself, because I'm a true Australian standing up for the Australian people," concluded Senator Culleton, with an inspiring if optimistic interpretation of the degree to which participation in the northernmost parts of this country's legal system is optional.
(As a general rule, there should always be more Rodneys. Rude! Dangerfield! Hogg! Marsh! Adler! Culleton! It is congenitally impossible for a Rodney to be dull)
But the fascinating thing more generally about Rod Culleton is that he himself is an unintended consequence.
In March this year, when Malcolm Turnbull – in partnership with the Greens – forced the Senate to change the way its own members are elected, it seemed like a victory over the plague of senatorial rats and mice which have tormented governments for years.
The Senate voting reforms stopped micro-parties from arranging (usually with the help of "preference whisperer" Glenn Druery) complex preference swaps between themselves that were capable of elevating a chancer like Ricky Muir, with only 17,000-odd votes, into the red chamber.
Instead of having preferences assigned according to shady deals among party negotiators, the new Senate was in July elected according to the preferences directed personally by voters.
The big winner from this new arrangement?
In the old system, Hanson and her colleagues were routinely frozen out of preference deals. Not only by the major parties, but also by the "preference whisperer" Druery who has since said that keeping Hanson out of office was a "public service" he performed free of charge.
So for years, even if Hanson got close to obtaining a Senate quota, she'd still fail, as the tide of preferences required to lift her over the line never materialised. See the 2001 election, where she won 10 per cent of the primary vote in Queensland but failed to get elected.
Under the new rules, however, things worked very differently in July this year. No longer locked out by preference deals, Pauline Hanson attracted about 9 per cent of the Queensland primary vote but this time got two senators elected – herself and Malcolm Roberts.
In NSW and in Western Australia, One Nation polled about 4 per cent. Under the old system, they would have flamed out. But with people-powered preferences, Brian Burston and Rodney Culleton rocketed into the Senate and made One Nation into a genuine foursquare power bloc.
Did the government or the Greens see this coming? You'd have to ask them. Unintended consequences are everywhere in politics. In the words of the immortal Culleton, when questioned about his thinking: "I could have had four glasses of wine at the time I was nominating and thought I would fill out the form and be free and easy, I don't know."
Annabel Crabb is an ABC writer and broadcaster. Twitter: annabelcrabb