Memoir reveals the heart of @RobOakeshott1: review by @SandraC81413369

Sandra Cotton

Sandra Cotton

Citizen Journalist at No Fibs
Sandra is a campaigner for a strong independent media with journalists who report without fear or favour. She is a climate activist and an advocate for renewed action on climate change.
Sandra Cotton
- 4 hours ago
Sandra Cotton
Rob Oakeshott in Queens Terrace Cafe, Parliament House, Canberra (Wikimedia Commons).

Rob Oakeshott in Queens Terrace Cafe, Parliament House, Canberra (Wikimedia Commons).

ROB Oakeshott’s recently published memoir is an entertaining and insightful recollection of his vital role in giving supply and confidence to the minority Labor Government, and his part in the progress of major legislation between 2010 and 2013.

His push for parliamentary and education reform and a price on carbon during this period will be familiar to many readers, but his book also sheds light on the less well known details of the negotiations behind the agreement with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the workings of the 43rd Parliament while Oakeshott served as Independent Member for the NSW electorate of Lyne.

He finds some answers with the voice and growing influence of the new media.

Integral to this account is the hostility of the media, in particular right-wing radio hosts and News Corp. Oakeshott reflects on how best to respond to the “corruption of our democracy” from these vested interests. He finds some answers with the voice and growing influence of the new media.

UnknownThis book is skilfully structured in five parts. The first captures the intensity of the 17 days from Saturday, August 12, 2010, when at 10pm during the victory celebrations for his campaign team, Oakeshott sensed, “the significance of the moment” with the national election result being so close.

The second covers his early political career in state and federal politics and reveals his motives for turning away from the National Party to act as an Independent. Being a social progressive and economic liberal, Oakeshott found himself increasingly at odds with the economic protectionism and social agrarianism of the Nationals. He wasn’t therefore naturally aligned to the Coalition as assumed by the then leader of the opposition Tony Abbott.

Oakeshott identifies himself as policy-focused, supporting policies underpinned by principle. Climate change and the National Broadband Network (NBN) were, therefore, non-negotiable when dealing with Gillard and Abbott. Oakeshott also emphasises that “in politics, relationships matter. Often, they are the only things that do”, and he admits in his heart of hearts he would have had a problem with Abbott over these two fundamental policies.

In the third and main section, he reveals the trust and friendly relations that developed between Prime Minister Gillard, the Independent Member for New England Tony Windsor, and himself at their weekly meetings over the three years of the parliament.

The two independent ministers warmed to the Prime Minister’s personable manner and great professionalism, but Oakeshott was sensitive to the strong negative perceptions of her. He recounts the increasing criticism from the media and the undermining by her party even as many of the major pieces of policy, such as the Gonski education reforms, were passed into legislation.

Oakeshott claims that, “ultimately it was perception, not reality, that destroyed her”.

The role of the media in creating perceptions, and the political influence of corporations which undermine Australian democracy, are developments that Oakeshott finds disturbing, having himself experienced gross misrepresentation by the press after his decision to support the Labor Government. In one case, the media wrongly tagged him to the death of an 11-year-old boy at the Urunga Pacific Highway blackspot.

Oakeshott laments the loss of the NBN and the possibility of Murdoch and Telstra making millions with changes of the policy direction under the Coalition. Consumers, he fears, will miss out in favour of a couple of corporate boards.

In the final section of his memoir, Oakeshott identifies the rise of the independent progressive media as a possible answer to corporate influence gaining control of the debate through the funding of universities, think-tanks and political candidates.

According to Oakeshott, news sources such as Independent Australia, New Matilda, Big Smoke and others which publish contributions from individuals like ex-parliamentary journalist, Margo Kingston, and David Donovan “respond to corporate influence with new and fiercely independent media voices, especially online”.

In closing, Oakeshott expresses pride in the achievements of the 43rd Parliament but also disappointment at the lost opportunities, particularly the advancement of the constitutional recognition of Australia’s First People. His commitment to advancing Aboriginal policy was strengthened by his marriage to Sarah Jane of the Yow Yeh people.

It is difficult, nonetheless, to understand Oakeshott’s acceptance of Noel Pearson’s view that Indigenous policy would be best served under Tony Abbott. It will be interesting to see if he still holds this view after almost a year of conservative government.

Oakeshott’s persuasive, eloquent and familiar voice is evident throughout his memoir and lends veracity to his account of a most remarkable period of Australian political history.


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Comments

  1. Jim Kremmer says:

    Rob Oakeshott along with Tony Windsor were both elected as Independent. Unfortunately for them they proceeded to act as such. Sad really.

    • Helen Errington says:

      Could you elaborate a little on what you mean by ‘…..both were elected as Independents……they proceeded to act as such…’ Thanks.

  2. John Fraser says:

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    For me it was a privilege to see and hear Rob Oakeshott mature to be one of Australia's finest politicians this century.

  3. I so miss these two independents. Greatly admired.
    So sad that a good government and great PM were brought down by a corrupt ideologically driven media.

  4. Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshot stood out as clear independent thinkers. One is cognizant that Howard stripped such people out of the Coalition ranks, and the LNP has tipped over the edge into an almost infantile-ideology of right-wing and self-obsessive grasping, in the willing thrall of the odious Murdoch media empire. .
    To the independent media sources recommended and valued I would add the Australian Independent Media Network http://www.theaimn.com

  5. Helen Errington says:

    At last, a review of a book that is easy to read and comprehend! Deftly structured it provides intriguing insight into the heady days of the minority government as seen through the eyes of a committed and principled independent, Rob Oakeshott. It reminds me that we the people must be more than vigilant in allowing mainstream media to manipulate our perceptions of what a good government should look like. I’m going to now buy his book!

  6. Alison Clifford says:

    Rob Oakshott, impressed me as a man of intelligence and integrity – he and Tony Windsor are sorely missed. The manipulation of public opinion by the mainstream media, acting on behalf of vested interests is truly frightening. Increasing support for independent media does offer some hope of change and this is something we can all be part of. I am very interested to read Oakshott’s views on this and the wide range of issues referred to in the review.

  7. I dips me lid to both Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor, unfortunately neither of their electorates had the brains or intelligence to realise how lucky they were to have them as local members. More importantly neither did the nation. Both men of principle and integrity. And ‘they’ can say what they like but I thought and still think that Julia Gillard was a star.

  8. Rosemary Smith says:

    Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor were great politicians with vision and integrity. They were great judges of character and looked at the big picture hence their support for the Government who had policies that served the ‘greater good’. Rob Oakshott, Tony Windsor and Julia Gillard are greatly missed. It is a pity how easily the Australian voter can be manipulated by forces that blind them to the real truth. Just look to what is happening to a fair and just Australia. Wake up before it is too late! We are being dumbed down and made to swallow a whole lot of untruths.

  9. harold giles says:

    here here

  10. This review of Rob Oakeshott’s memoirs by Sandra C is spot on. Sandra C focuses on the discussion in his memoirs of the big issues and powerful events that Rob Oakeshott was personally involved with during his time in parliament. As Sandra C points out, Oakeshott is not afraid to call out the main stream media for their role in undermining our democracy just to satisfy the desires of a couple of corporate boards. This book by Rob Oakeshott is a must read for anyone interested in trying to make sense of the last four years of politics in Australia and the dreadful outcome we got, with the election of the Abbott government.

  11. Steve Green says:

    Oakeshott and Windsor did more for regional Australia during the three short years of that hung parliament than the Nationals have done in the entire history of the party, and that’s what terrifies the Nats the most. Windsor always said he went with Gillard because she had a plan and he felt he could trust her, whereas with Abbott it was ‘power at any cost’ and now the nation is starting to see how good his judgement at that time was.

  12. A great man from whatever background he came. He (along with Tony Windsor) was thrust into a monumental position and handled it with the poise and responsibility that is very rarely seen in politics today. Thank you.