Peter Smith

The Oaf from New England

What do you do if an implacable foe can say whatever scurrilous things he likes about you in a protected environment? Supposing he is base enough to paint you in the vilest terms and use any pretext to spew his venom.

Well there would appear to be two options. One is to respond in kind. The other is to take the high road and remain above the fray when it comes to personal abuse, and leave the offending party to embarrass himself in the eyes of decent onlookers. Tony Abbott has taken the high road and it bodes well for his future tenure as prime minister. John Howard always took the high road.

Listen to part of Tony Windsor said about Abbott in Parliament and wince at his cheap and nasty vulgarity.

…he actually begged for the job… He begged for the job and he made the point, not only to me but to others in that negotiating period, that he would do anything to get that job… your colleagues should be aware that the only codicil that you put on that was: I will do anything, Tony, to get this job; the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse…If he had been asked to put in place an emissions trading scheme—or a carbon tax, for that matter—he would have done it…in my view this man, the Leader of the Opposition, was quite prepared to do that if he had been given the nod on that particular day.

Windsor, remember, represents a conservative electorate (New England) which delivered a primary vote to Labor and the Greens combined of just 12 per cent in the 2010 elections; yet he decided to support a Gillard government. In my view, that represented an utter betrayal of the wishes of his electorate. His honourable course, if he found himself unable to support Tony Abbott, would have been to resign and recontest his seat with his true colours nailed to the mast. The same can be said of Rob Oakeshott, his partner in electoral conning. Windsor has no credibility and will undoubtedly and justifiably be thrown out unceremoniously by the electors of New England at the next election, if he has the hide to stand.

With admirable restraint, Abbott suggested that Windsor was reacting to the embarrassment he felt at putting in power the worst government in Australia’s history. Certainly we have the most incompetent and duplicitous government ever. However, I am not as confident as Abbott that Windsor either understands that or would be discomforted in any event. After all, here is a man who feels comfortable broadcasting his own crude version of confidential negotiations conducted during tumultuous times, when tensions and the stakes were high, with the leader of a major political party. I don’t seem to recall him making similar remarks about Abbott at the time.

It was reported that both Windsor and Oakeshott praised the Labor and Coalition teams for how they engaged in negotiations, saying that either leader would have been a good prime minister.

Call me prissy and precious if you like but, personally, I don’t think anyone would make a good prime minister if he were willing to give away everything to get the job, save for his arse. Perhaps Windsor’s ill-bred turn of phrase is the source of confusion. Contemporary politics may give perspective.

We do have a Prime Minister who showed willingness to go back on an explicit undertaking to the Australian people in order to form government and cling to power, knowing that she would have lost the election if she had not made the undertaking. Is this, I ask myself, what Windsor would mean by “selling one’s arse”? Or is this, too, one step short of that? If it is, it beggars belief as to what political chicanery might qualify for the ultimate sell-out.

Peter Smith is the author of Bad Economics

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