Peter Smith

Welcome to hard Labor

What a relief for Gillard. Another prized ministerial position available for her to dispense to keep her troops in line. What a relief too for her, or anyone, not to have yikes golly-gosh in the cabinet room.

Make no mistake, Oakeshott wanted to be a minister. He had that drooling for high office look of those who think that their odd views should be foisted on the rest of us for our own good. The Labor Party apparatchiks knew that too and seem to have timed the leak perfectly, as we know they can do, to queer Oakeshott’s pitch. The revelation that he’d tried to secure a ministerial position from Iemma put too much heat on him.

Oakeshott apparently has ‘no recollection whatsoever’ of his conversations with Iemma. Not recollecting something of such singular significance is beyond belief. It happened or it didn’t happen and he would know which is which. “I can’t recall – I can’t remember”: an appropriate refuge for carpetbaggers and main chancers.

If he’d accepted the position offered by Gillard, the digging to find the truth of his past courtship of Iemma would have intensified and followed him around like a bad smell. Presumably he hopes it will now go away. It shouldn’t. Hypocrisy is best outed. It’s a pity for Oakeshott because a ministry, with a department behind him, was his only chance of having any say at all.

What Oakeshott and Windsor will soon begin to understand is that whatever difficulties they might have had in the past in dealing with the National Party, will now appear as a Sunday school picnic compared with dealing with Labor Party hardheads. Swan has already beaten Windsor into line on the mining tax. It was all a misunderstanding Windsor plaintively cried after being thoroughly thrashed in the deputy headmaster’s study.

A lot has been made of the Government having to kowtow to these so-called independents. The kowtowing is over. It lasted for 17 days. The independents will now do as they are told. As turncoats, they will be as much despised by those whose ranks they have joined as by those who they turned against. Exactly what are they to do; where are they to go; when Gillard, Swan & Company tell them to fall into line. There is nothing to do about it and nowhere to go. They have cast their die. If they think differently, they are dumber than they look.

They need the Government to look as though it’s working to prove they were right; to shore up their own positions and tattered reputations. Any truculence on their part will simply make a new election, and their own demise, more likely. As it is, the Government will last as long as Gillard wants it to. If she sees the polls turning in her favour she will take advantage of it. The agreement with the independents to go a full term is worthless. Anyone who could knife Rudd in the back only minutes after making an agreement with him will have little compunction about doing over a couple of turncoats from the bush.

With the Coalition, they might have been listened to; they might have had a chance of being returned at the next election. They might have even been welcomed back to the fold. Though I think Abbott may well have been cleverer than we all think. He probably knew that the two of them plus Wilkie, progressives all and living down to that label, were never going to support him. Why not make them generous offers that he knew they would refuse and put extra pressure on Gillard to respond. Just a Machiavellian thought.

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