The Effluent Billabong: Last Stop For Oakeshott And Windsor

A Newspoll published in today’s issue of The Australian seems to confirm what everyone else already knows — that Independent federal MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor are riding on a one-way ticket to nowhere.

Newspoll shows primary vote support for the pair has virtually halved since last year’s election: Windsor’s falling from 62% to 33%; Oakeshott’s from 47% to 26%.

Unsurprisingly, were Newspoll’s findings replicated at a fresh election, both would lose to National Party candidates — in a landslide.

Newspoll has specifically asked respondents how they would allocate preferences in the two seats; in both districts, people indicated they would preference away from the Independents, which would see Windsor lose 47-53 in New England to the Nationals, and Oakeshott by a whopping 38-62 in Lyne, after preferences.

If preferences were distributed as they had been at last year’s election Oakeshott would be gone in any case, whilst Windsor would quite literally be 50-50 and line ball.

It doesn’t surprise me Windsor’s position is less dire than Oakeshott’s; he is the more astute of the two, and his electorate has been showered with government largesse since he entered the agreement to support Gillard’s minority government.

And after all, since he came to national prominence, Oakeshott — with his penchant for making windy, wordy speeches that actually say nothing — is a stellar advertisement for pretty much anybody else standing in his electorate.

Oakeshott says he’s not surprised his support in Lyne has collapsed; Windsor says he’s “heartened” that more people in his electorate haven’t turned on him. That’s right, Tony: it’s heartening indeed when your constituents indicate your papers are stamped and that you’re involuntarily departing at the next stop. It’s so very heartening that so many more of them may yet decide to get in on the action.

It’s no surprise as to how this situation has come about.

Had these gentlemen been Independents elected in comparably safe ALP seats — say, off the top of my head, Blaxland or Batman — their constituents might be a little less unforgiving of their decision to prop up a Labor government which is determinedly  pursuing a decidedly left-wing agenda.

Instead, they hold two of the most conservative electorates in Australia, and rural conservatism tends to be a vastly more residual beast than its city cousin.

And rural conservative electorates, generally, are staunchly opposed to the carbon tax being introduced by Gillard and her commie mates — a tax both Windsor and Oakeshott voted to support.

If this sounds like two MPs with a political death wish, Newspoll can confirm that the carbon tax is opposed by 72% of electors in Oakeshott’s seat of Lyne; in New England, the figure is 71%. Approval for the measure stands at 22% in both electorates.

Even were the two MPs to do a U-turn and throw in their lot with Tony Abbott, engineering a change of government, the damage to their electoral prospects is probably irreversible.

There’s recent precedent, too — three Independents elected in safe conservative electorates put the ALP in power in Victoria in 1999, sealing the ouster of Jeff Kennett’s government.

Susan Davies in the ultra-conservative electorate of Gippsland West was thrown out at the 2002 election; Russell Savage survived in Mildura on the back of his personal vote for an additional term until 2006, when confronted with an extremely strong campaign by the Nationals; and Craig Ingram saw his seat of Gippsland East finally reclaimed by the Coalition last year. Davies was quite openly an ALP member and had stood in Gippsland West for the ALP prior to winning it as an Independent in a by-election.

The point is that Davies held a seat with great similarities to Lyne and New England; what happened to her in the end should serve as a warning to Oakeshott and Windsor.

But it won’t.

Indeed, I’ve heard reports (which I can’t confirm — I haven’t been to Port Macquarie in years) that there are businesses in that fine town, particularly light industries, with placards on their fences warning Oakeshott isn’t welcome. I stress I can’t confirm that but by the same token it wouldn’t surprise me.

But they don’t get it — they simply don’t get it.

I quote here Oakeshott, directly from The Australian: “I don’t know what will happen at next ballot (sic), but I will turn up and stand in front of my community and say Pacific Highway tick; hospital funding tick; university funding tick; regional development finally underway, tick; certainty from an emissions trading scheme, tick…”

Oakeshott goes on to say he is focused on making “good judgement calls” and that making difficult decisions doesn’t make those decisions “any less right.”

Well, one of his “good judgement calls” is obviously not an astute reading of his electorate — the people who voted for him — because any idiot with no political acumen whatsoever could see they disagree with virtually everything he has done.

Windsor, for his part, says he thinks his voters will “come to understand the importance” of things like the carbon tax, and that he will indeed stand for re-election whenever the next election comes up. Tony Windsor is a nice guy, but I think he’s kidding himself.

Unbelievably — given the Newspoll figures seeing him losing his seat — he even claims “not to be all that disappointed” with the result. Well, quite, but if I had a seat in Parliament that I wanted to hang onto, I wouldn’t be going about things the way this pair are.

From a general perspective, and in light of the malodorous nature of this matter, I could make some reference to heads up backsides — but I won’t.

No, the good ship Independent Denial sails on; crewed by Messrs Oakeshott and Windsor it sails, inexorably, up the effluent billabong, and runs aground.

And would you believe — there’s nary a paddle in sight?

Now you know what that stench is, don’t you…