Well thank Harry the Bloody Dancing Fish God for that. Tony Abbot will not now or ever be the Prime Minister of Australia. In all I think we might have just got the best result possible. That is, Labor able to form government, but in the weakest possible position without having to rely on Bob Katter. Actually, while everyone (including me) has gone on about how crazy Katter is, I’ve been pretty impressed with him during this last couple of weeks. He seemed like someone I could disagree with about a lot of things, but still fundamentally decent and with people’s best interests at heart.
So Labor can’t claim any mandate, and they’ve got the arse-kicking they deserved, but without the horror of Ratboy ascending to power in their place. And any decisions Labor makes will have to be passed by a pretty solid-looking panel, ethically speaking, of Windsor, Oakeshott, Wilkie, and Bandt. Trying to get legislation past Bandt and Katter in concert would likely have been impossible, but I think the four we now have could work quite well together, while Katter is safely sequestered in glorious isolation.
Tony Windsor has come across as a solid and admirable individual through the whole process, intent on putting wider interests ahead of his own, and while he appears naturally conservative on a lot of things, he also seems very open to the idea of discussion, debate, and concord. One doesn’t get the sense he’ll be an obstructionist. Actually I have more misgivings about Bandt being obstructionist, if he decides to block all kinds of things on the letter of his principles instead of letting anything get done.
And can I just say, I love Andrew Wilkie? He’s odd, but he’s awesome. So you probably know the story, but he goes to Tony Abbot and says, “I need a billion dollars for my hospital.”
And Abbot says, “Sure, here’s a bil.”
And Wilkie says, “Hey everyone, Tony Abbot just offered me a billion dollars, just like that. He’s obviously irresponsible. I’m going with the other guys. They offered 340 mil.”
Then everyone jumps up and down and says Wilkie double-crossed them, and that he was getting them back for screwing him over in 2003. Well first, fair enough, because they did try to throw him in jail for the heinous crime of revealing that the government lied in order to justify a war that no-one wanted. That’s not the super-coolest of things to do. But I don’t even think it was payback. He said early in the piece that he wanted a stable and responsible government. Then he tested the Libs out. He asked for a billion freaking dollars, and they just handed it to him, on a plate. So he rightly concluded that they weren’t responsible. It was a test, and Abbot failed. Wilkie proved to himself and to us that Abbot just wanted to buy a vote, instead of finding out what a hospital should cost and how to afford it. I think it was a genius move. And how satisfying is it? The guy the Libs tried to bury at the height of their bullyboy arrogance comes back and costs them an election. It’s beautiful to see them having to eat some of what they smeared all over everyone else.
But the best thing to come out of this all is the emergence of Oakeshott. I found Rudd a relief in the melange of parliamentary mediocrity because he was at least highly intelligent and seemed to want to achieve something. But Oakeshott is something I don’t know I’ve ever seen in Australian politics: smart, ethical, a good speaker, straightforward, generous, fundamentally decent, and…in power. Or at least one of the people in power. When was the last time that happened? Whitlam had some of those traits, but was also a rampant egotist with a tendency for rash decisions, two failings which the more cautious and considered Oakeshott doesn’t have. As well as that, he’s fiercely independent and looks like he’d be hard to push around. And can I mention again, eloquence? Plus substance? When he spoke this afternoon I could actually listen to him, and feel that he had something worthwhile to say. What a luxury. Plus he has a daggy dad-joke sense of humour, which is endearing. Who could have predicted that my first Australian political man-crush would be on an ex-Nationals MP?
And so we have it. The creeping fear of two weeks ago has subsided. While I don’t have any more faith than I did then in a lot of my compatriots – the ones who like to keep their mouths open and their minds closed, as they mumble slogans like ‘stop the boats’ – we’ve somehow fluked an amazing result. Or a potentially amazing result. It could still all go pear-shaped, of course, but in what is quite literally a first-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we have a very different kind of government. With the four outside votes, Labor’s legislation will be incredibly accountable. And if they decide to stall and not put any legislation through, it only takes one of the four to pull their support to bring the whole house down. So we may just get shit done, and we may get some more admirable things done in a more ethical manner than has ever been the case in Canberra. While even a few weeks ago I would never have believed I could say this, the best thing may not necessarily be that we don’t have Abbot. It may be that we do have Oakeshott.