Embracing hitherto unexperienced levels of media exposure, independent MP Rob Oakeshott yesterday spoke of a magical land far far away – a colourful place called “consensus politics.”
In a self-described “cheeky” suggestion, Oakeshott floated the idea of a mix and match government with, say, Kevin Rudd as Tony Abbott’s foreign minister or Malcolm Turnbull pulling up a chair at Gillard’s cabinet meetings. Oakeshott may not have been completely serious, but he didn’t seem to be joking either.
He also said that he knew – just knew – Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are friends. So why not pick up the phone and have chat? Why not dial a buddy and nut this one out with a good old fashioned chin wag?
Plenty of commentators agree that Australia could benefit from parliamentary reform because, as Michelle Grattan wrote in The Age, “the way the House of Representatives’ question time operated in the last term was a disgrace.”
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But the commentariat also seemed to come to a collective agreement that Oakeshott’s optimistic view of government, in which members from both sides arrive hand in hand to sing Hakuna Matata, might be stretching things a tad too far.
Here’s how the pundits reported about this new proposed parliament of rainbows and bubblegum.
Paul Kelly: Minorities will be held to account
The independents are required to take action anathema to their entire existence: install Labor or Coalition, Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott, in power. They have to make a political decision in favour of one party or another. They cannot run, hide or dissemble with meaningless chatter about fresh opportunities unique to mankind.
James Massola and Joe Kelly: Rob Oakeshott urges Gillard and Abbott to start talking
Continuing his call to reinvent the parliamentary system, Mr Oakeshott said his preference was for a cross-party cabinet and indicated he may not support either side of politics if a cross-party cabinet could not be formed.
Emma Rodgers: Abbott promises more Mr Nice Guy
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has conceded Australia’s Parliament is “needlessly confrontational” and says it could be kinder and gentler. But he is not willing to adopt independent MP Rob Oakeshott’s idea of including Labor politicians in a Coalition cabinet as a way of narrowing the party divide.
Simon Benson: Party politics is so yesterday – Robert Oakeshott
Mr Oakeshott said voters had demonstrated they were tired of party politics, and he would consider moving away from usual power sharing arrangements.
Michelle Grattan: Oakeshott suggests a ‘unity’ government
Describing his naming names as ”cheeky”, he was trying to get Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott ”to think outside the box for once”. He admitted it was not likely to fly.
Andrew Bolt: Shun all talk of consensus
“…Oakeshott with his bizarre talk of a new “consensus” politics plans to rob you of even more control over your politicians. And Windsor, falsely claiming this stalemate proves voters “couldn’t make a decision”, may now want to impose on the rest of the country exactly the anti-voter “reforms” he helped inflict on NSW, to its misfortune.