An excellent adventure for a man of honour
The Independent Member for Lyne By Rob Oakeshott Allen & Unwin, 392pp, $35
IN the wee hours of a June 26th morning, Rob Oakeshott was just another rural independent — a man who would fail to appear on the radar of even the most tragic politics junkie. Yet within a couple of hours, prime ministers and would-be prime ministers were knocking at his door, begging for his favour.
The Independent Member for Lyne is Oakeshott’s account of a fascinating time in Australian political history. As the kingmaker (or in this case, queenmaker) following the 2010 federal election, he was in all sort of things complicit in the highs and lows and inevitable chaos of the hung parliament and the Gillard years.
The book opens at the beginning of the 17 days in which Oakeshott and his associate independent MP Tony Windsor had to choose between Julia Gillard’s bloodied, battered Labor and the not-quite-ascendant Coalition of Tony Abbott. It’s in this moment of political crisis that Oakeshott is revealed for what he truly is.
He is a man of honour, a man of principle, and he has not one ounce of political cunning.
From the outset, it does appear Oakeshott was going to support Labor over the Coalition. Abbott lays his cards on the table. “Climate change and NBN are non-negotiable,” he tells Oakeshott, “Look, if you want to support one or both of these issues, go with the other mob.”
How does the poor soul in the spotlight respond? As Oakeshott puts it so eloquently, “I was pissed off.”
He makes his respect, even his affection, for Abbott the man clear throughout this book but he’s less fond of the master of negativity we’d all come to know. He sees a Liberal Party that would allow nothing to stand in the way of its lust for government.
Both parties offered him millions of dollars for his electorate and a position in the cabinet but only the Coalition could guarantee Oakeshott his (essentially conservative) seat until the end of days. That he threw away Abbott’s offer and power and parliamentary tenure for his core beliefs is both unbelievably brave and