Tony Abbott promised to redirect education and health spending and use mining tax revenue to pay for a $1 billion-a-year regional infrastructure fund to woo country independents to back him to form government.
But the two ‘’kingmaker’’ independents say the size of the package - coming on top of Treasury’s revelation of a ‘’hole’’ in the Coalition costings - actually pushed them towards supporting Labor.
The independent Tony Windsor told the Herald the fund was ‘’essentially uncosted...”
Windsor baulks at an “uncosted” $1 billion the Liberals promise for rural voters, but swallows whole the largely uncosted $43 billion Labor is promising for broadband.
Come off it. Last night’s Four Corners’ program on the two weeks the independents spent haggling over which party they’d backed revealed several unflattering truths:
- Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor from the start seemed keen to find reasons to back Labor, and to find little good in the Coalition. Example:
TONY WINDSOR: I didn’t pick anything up from J, ah, from Julia Gillard, ah, but Abbott he when he, he got into a few tough spots there. He [mumbles imitating Abbott] [laughter] you know he’s ah gives himself away.
- The two of them were so keen to follow Labor’s agenda that they sought briefings only from experts who supported it too, notably in the critical area of global warming policy.
- Oakeshott and Windsor were so giddy with their new power and fame that they invited Four Corners into almost every meeting they had, and let them eavesdrop on their side of telephone conversations they were having even with Julia Gillard, who, we learned, begged Windsor for a hint on who he’s support:
TONY WINDSOR (on the phone): No, no, no, I think ah I think that’ll suffice for the moment, yeah. No, no, no hints! Yeah, oh well, we’ll have a game of cards one day. Okay. Righto, thanks Julia, bye.
- So full of their own importance were they that they didn’t just ask the ABC cameras to film their almost every conversation, but even staged their final deliberations for filming.
- The sheer delight Oakeshott showed in stumbling into Tony Abbott being ambushed in the independents’ office by Four Corners, having rushed over to dispute the Treasury costings, revealed a man taking an unhealthily huge delight in the attention and his influence.
- Oakeshott was so wrapped up in his own agenda that he paid no attention to fellow Bob Katter’s own list of demands of the party, and was stunned when Katter, not unreasonably, decided to support the Coalition on the basis of the responses he got:
ROBERT OAKESHOTT: So I think we’re all in heated agreement that um, um, we’re going to end up, you’ve made your call based on your 20 point plan. We can’t be expected to make a decision on that..
- Oakeshott was so keen to back Labor that he turned down a Coalition offer of help for bush seats like his own that was morre generous than what Labor was offering:
ROBERT OAKESHOTT: Shit! People are starting to put their cards on the table, and um, being quite frank, the dollar figure for regional Australia from the coalition on paper is looking substantially larger than the offer from government.
- Oakeshott in particular has an ego way out of control, and little consideration for confidences of others.
- No one with alternatives will offer Oakeshott a senior job in Government, having seen his Labrador-on-uppers act. Once he loses his balance of power, he will be finished.
- Katter will keep his distance in future from the two men, having decided to do just that even before they announced their decision, and repeatedly questioning their eagerness to have the ABC film their every conversation:
SARAH FERGUSON: At 11.45. The independents convene in Windsor’s office. They are putting their cards on the table for the first time.
TONY WINDSOR: Anyway we’ve gotta start to come down to the wire I guess. Now anything we say now is highly confidential of course.
BOB KATTER: How can it be highly confidential if we have got the mic there?
ROBERT OAKESHOTT: Look, I think we be genuine stability and outcomes…
BOB KATTER: No, I think we want to speak freely. I don’t want the mic here, please fellas
- The constant companion of the critical two independents right through those two weeks of haggling was Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson, strongly of the Left. What effect did this have on them? Did her presence illustrate the maxim that one cannot observe something without changing it?
- Why was there not a single reference in the program to Bruce Hawker, the Labor spinner and Windsor’s cousin, who was so heavily involved in guiding them into supporting Labor?