Australian politics is the poorer for the loss of Oakeshott and Windsor

Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are two reasons why this minority government has – in spite of all dire mutterings and pronouncements of doom – functioned, and functioned well. It’s due to their insistence on examining legislation on its merits, refusing to be pressured by either the Government or the Opposition, that we have been faced with neither paralysis nor a runaway agenda. They’ve taken pains to consult with everyone from the Prime Minister to fellow Independent Andrew Wilkie to their local constituents, and helped broker significant parliamentary reforms.

And for their pains, what have they received? I’ve already written about the amount of ridicule levelled at Oakeshott for his tendency to speak his mind at length. Windsor became the target of an extraordinary amount of venom from the National Party, accused of everything from treason to megalomania. Nonetheless, they’ve continued to do their jobs, and done them well.

Their dedication to behaving as politicians should – as representatives who put the nation’s interests above their own gain – has gained them little praise, and far too much criticism. Australian politics is richer for their contribution.

And now, Australia will be far poorer.

This morning, Oakeshott announced that he will not contest the September 14 election. He described the last three years as the toughest of his life – which, frankly, is an understatement. Remember, this man has been subject to relentless criticism simply for doing his job.

He was followed a little later by a tearful Tony Windsor, who cited family and health issues as the reason for his resignation. He added that the ‘vitriol’ to which he’d been subjected had affected his family, and said, ‘I don’t really want to be here in three years’ time’.

With their resignations, their respective seats will probably return to the National Party, adding to what looks like an increasingly decisive Coalition victory in September. Senator Barnaby Joyce should now successfully move to the Lower House without Windsor to stand against him in New England. Lyne is a little more uncertain; the landslide to Oakeshott in 2010 left both major parties neck and neck.

This is a dreadful day for Australian politics. After the election, there will be two less independent voices, two fewer voices of reason. If the minor parties don’t succeed in increasing their share of seats, there’s a real possibility the Coalition will control both Houses outright. That would reduce the Senate to nothing more than a rubber stamp for any legislation (or, indeed, any of the Coalition’s promised repeals). Opposition would be completely ineffective. Even with Windsor and Oakeshott in the Parliament, we may well see that result. The more voices to speak up, to question, to represent a different point of view, however, at least there would be proper scrutiny.

Both men made the point that they’re not ‘quitting’. Oakeshott, in particular, said he had no fear of the upcoming election campaign. There’s no doubt, though, that bullying was a factor – and I don’t use the word lightly. Being subjected, day after day, to relentless harassment, wears down even the strongest of us.

Some might say that constant criticism is something any politician should expect. Of course, that’s true. Just as with the vicious insults heaped on the Prime Minister, however, there is a material difference between criticising someone’s decisions and attacking the person.

Christopher Pyne just remarked piously on the curious fact that people never believe it when a politician announces their resignation ‘for family reasons’, even though that’s why most politicians leave. Not five minutes later, he asserted that the ‘real’ reason Windsor and Oakeshott were leaving was because they didn’t want to lose their seats in September. It’s not only an asinine statement, given their 2010 election results – it’s a perfect example of the nonsense to which the Independents have been subjected.

Oakeshott and Windsor deserve praise – not because they were knights in shining armour, or martyrs to a cause. They deserve praise because they are reasonable men who took their job seriously. Because they insisted on scrutiny, and research, and consultation. Because they always tried to act in the best interests of the nation, even when it had the potential to damage their own causes.

Because they did their work wisely, and well.

Mr Oakeshott, Mr Windsor, the nation will be poorer without your voices in Parliament. You have been an example of how politics should work. You are men of integrity who did not flinch in the face of enormous pressure. We can only hope that future politicians will look to your example, rather than some of the more volatile, high profile figures of today.

Thank you, Mr Oakeshott.

Thank you, Mr Windsor.

We wish you well.

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6 Responses to Australian politics is the poorer for the loss of Oakeshott and Windsor

  1. Rob Pittman says:

    They will both be missed. Before the last election I didn’t know who Rob Oakeshott was and when visiting Wingham thought who the hell. I do know now and appreciate him for who he is and what he did and I never thought I would. As for Tony Windsor, WOW. He needs however to do one more thing for us. Find a great Independent to back so we don’t have to put up with Barnaby Joyce who is the exact opposite type of Polli as these two Independents.

  2. megpie71 says:

    Given the amount of legislative heavy lifting they’ve been doing for the length of this parliament – work they’ve had to do because the Coalition MPs have basically not been doing their jobs – I’m not surprised the two of them are flat our exhausted and want to get a bit of rest. I’m grateful to them for their service, and I thank them for their efforts.

    Yes, I did accuse the Coalition MPs of not doing the jobs they were elected to do. Because they haven’t been. A blanket refusal by the Coalition to even countenance anything that the Government brings to the table is not the job they were elected to do – it’s petty nay-saying. Instead of the Coalition speaking up to amend and alter bills into something which is more suitable to deal with the reality of life than the original draft (which actually IS their job), they’ve basically stuck with a refusal to go along with the Government’s ideas which would have been judged poor behaviour in a group of five-year-olds. They’ve left the task of examining the various bills, making amendments, bargaining those amendments through and doing the negotiation required to get the job done to the various independent MPs on the cross-benches (and to Adam Bandt, the single Greens MP in the parliament – I do hope he gets re-elected). Quite frankly, I’d be arguing the taxpayers of Australia are entitled to a refund from the Coalition of their parliamentary salaries, because we’re effectively paying them for work they haven’t performed.

    Good luck and good health to Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor, and may they enjoy their time away from the parliament to the fullest extent.

  3. I agree that Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor have made an almighty contribution to Australian politics over the last few years. Their respective decisions to leave the nuttery of Canberra and pursue other aspects of their lives is understandable, commendable, and should be applauded.

    Christopher Pyne??? The snot-rag should never be mentioned in the same breath as people with dignity, integrity, maturity, commitment, and the courage to stand on principle. Pyne is a turd. We can only hope that all of Australia isn’t flushed down the toilet with his considerable self-aggrandising egomania.

    Cheers to Tony & Rob. They contributed something meaningful to Australian politics.

  4. downandunder says:

    By what reasoning can Windsor retire and leave his electorate to a man of Barnaby Joyce’s stripe?

    What rationale can Oakeshott have after such an impassioned speech last week in Parliament in defence of the government’s NBN for abandoning the fight with what will potentially be a new regime set on abandoning FTTP in favour of the Turnbull-touted FTTN that is destined to keep Telstra, Foxtel, and the Murdoch fortunes intact with their perpetuation of copper and lower internet speeds.

  5. Leaving with their integrity intact. Voices of reason to be replaced by buffoons, mainly from Queensland….http://woman-in-labor-alp.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/independent-mps-windsor-and-oakeshot.html

  6. Very much a loss yes… Windsor in particular has been a pinnacle of commonsense and reasonableness – which has been most rare in this parliament.

    They will be sadly missed.

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