An ex­cel­lent ad­ven­ture for a man of hon­our

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Richard Fer­gu­son

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

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