Rob Oakeshott Responds To Gerard Henderson On Minority Government

Rob Oakeshott has shot back at Sydney Morning Herald columnist Gerard Henderson over his comments on minority government.

OakeshottThe member for Lyne, one of the rural independents whose support is crucial to the survival of Julia Gillard’s minority Labor government, was responding to yesterday’s column by Henderson which argued that “the Australian body politic is clearly afflicted by the minority obsession”.

Henderson claimed: “For more than two years, a number of poor political decisions and misjudged statements can be directly attributed to the minority obsession’s prevalence. Most recently, some of the assessments of the Federal Court in Ashby v Commonwealth of Australia.”

In his response, Oakeshott said “the dreamers for majority” had failed to adjust to the “new normal” of multi-party democracy. Oakeshott defended his decision to support a minority Labor government, even when “the ALP has gone missing on some key items agreed to”.

He wrote: “Better education and health polices, a market-based emissions trading scheme being implemented, a rate of return and equity being delivered through a national broadband strategy, progress on bi-partisan recognition of Australia’s 40,000-year-old history in our Constitution, and the starting elements of tax reform, are all positive reasons why I did what I did, and why I stand by it.”

This article appeared on the website of the member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott.

A FOOLISH SUMMATION OF MULTI-PARTY DEMOCRACY

Mr Gerard Henderson yesterday continued his convenient and ongoing obsession with minority government, and his attacks on colleague Tony Windsor and I in particular (Minority rule makes fools of both sides of the house). The executive director of the conservative Australian current affairs forum has never spoken to me, or to my knowledge to Mr Windsor, so his “insight” into the events leading up to the incumbent government securing a working majority is exposed and needs correcting.

The facts are quite different to Mr Henderson’s musings.

Mr Henderson claims the electorates of Lyne and New England “clearly preferred the Coalition to Labor when they had the choice between the two parties in the 2010 Senate election”. It is a convenient misreading of the electorate of Lyne, or any electorate, to suggest a Senate vote is somehow a mirror-image of a House of Representatives vote. It is not. In the House of Representatives, the best indicator of the mood of the majority in 2010, shows the electorate of Lyne voted Independent. They did so because of dissatisfaction with both Labor and the Coalition, and recognition that an Independent MP is a viable third option for community building, and for promoting real democracy. Mr Henderson fails to respect this majority view in his argument, and by doing so, shows disrespect to the intelligence of voters in the electorate of Lyne in 2010.

Mr Henderson claims the Prime Minister did not need to enter an agreement with the Greens Party. This fails to represent what Tony Windsor and I have stated on many occasions in the past two years. In the post-election negotiations, this demonstration by either major party leader of who could work with the Greens in the Senate, so that a reform agenda could actually be delivered in a bicameral Parliament, was one of several factors in my considerations, as well as colleagues. This remains an ongoing factor the Australian people will need to consider at next year’s federal election, with Senators elected for two terms. The pragmatic reality is the Greens are “in the House”, and like it or not, are here to stay post-2013 elections.

Mr Henderson claims I “detest the Nationals”. On the contrary, I do not detest the National Party, or any party. Indeed, one of my many failings is that I struggle to hate or detest as much as a successful Australian political life demands. I do hate policy and reform inertia, and there is enough of that around to occupy one’s mind and time.

Mr Henderson twists a genuine concern about Tony Abbott as Leader of the LNP as quoted in 2009, when I said I had concern “for Australian politics, where no separation of church and state exists in principle”, into an example of “personal animosity” from me to Mr Abbott, and a “21st Century demonstration of anti-Catholic sectarianism”. This is a serious charge by Mr Henderson that is manifestly untrue and conveniently partisan once again.

I enjoy Mr Abbott’s company. I have ridden bikes with Mr Abbott and have gone camping with him. My stated concerns about church and state have nothing to do with any religion; nor are they driven by animosity. They are, and remain, a genuine concern about the style of leader that Tony Abbott presents for the LNP, and for Australia.

Mr Henderson is wrong in his conclusion that Tony Windsor and I were locked and loaded with the ALP well before negotiations in August 2010 began. As 4 Corners has shown in their “livecam” account of events at the time, our final decision was made hours before that media conference where I certainly concede I spoke for way too long, but did so as it was from the heart about why my decision was the right one for constituency and country.

And yes, for Mr Henderson and anyone else wondering, I stand by that decision. I stand by that decision even when the ALP has gone missing on some key items agreed to, and even where the Parliament has failed to rise to the challenge that the Australian people are asking of it. Better education and health polices, a market-based emissions trading scheme being implemented, a rate of return and equity being delivered through a national broadband strategy, progress on bi-partisan recognition of Australia’s 40,000-year-old history in our Constitution, and the starting elements of tax reform, are all positive reasons why I did what I did, and why I stand by it.

Finally, I am not alone in finding the “opinion commentary” in our country in 2012 lost in the fields of the partisan and adversarial, and Mr Henderson’s latest attempt to re-write history as a set-up for the 2013 election is today’s example. These “dreamers for majority” have not adjusted well to the “new normal” of multi-party democracy. For people like Mr Henderson, as just one example, to present as someone who knows so much, it is telling we have never met. It is even more telling these types continue to fail the real test of a whinger in a functioning, healthy democracy like Australia – “if you think you can do better, why don’t you have a go at the ballot in 2013?”

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