Listening to first Tony Windsor and then Rob Oakeshott deliver their verdicts in this afternoon's press conference was a really interesting experience. I was driving home, so heard it on the radio rather than watching the teeve, of which I'm now glad, because I gather from various online commentary thus far that the media pack behaved like a bunch of hyenas: restless, noisy and disrespectful. And like them, and like, I'm sure, the rest of the country, I spent the first two or three minutes of Tony Windsor's speech champing at the bit thinking Oh for God's sake get on with it already.
Then it dawned on me slowly that this really was a fairly historic moment in the history of Australian parliamentary democracy; it deserved its little bit of theatre. More, the Independents deserved to be allowed to explain themselves in detail -- not least because they know they will be carved up by the Murdoch-dominated press and filleted by their own electorates.
Windsor probably drew the long straw; speaking first, he had the luxury of being able to announce his decision halfway through his speech, knowing the press and the country would have no choice but to keep listening. It was harder for Oakeshott, who knew that the minute he announced his decision they would all stop listening to him and he therefore had no real choice but to leave it till the end. Which was, anyway, the only possible choice, given the degree of theatre the occasion deserved and got.
In terms of one's own personal development (and the more I see of certain people in their 70s and 80s, the more determined I become never to abandon the effort to be Better), what I found very educational was my own childish impatience for instant gratification. As Windsor got into his stride, I began to ask myself exactly why I just wanted him to hurry up, when what he was saying was actually content-rich and very interesting. I seemed to myself to be a toddler squalling for her dummy. I began to be a bit ashamed, and switched to Mindfulness mode.
Which stood me in good stead when it came to Oakeshott, who set Mindfulness a bit of a test. But I don't know why a certain sort of commentator (on the Crikey liveblog, for a start) is whingeing about there being no substance to his speech. There appeared to me to be plenty.
My dad will be ropeable about this result, but then he is permanently ropeable about everything these days, so it would be hard to tell. It saddens me that I won't be able to make him see the single biggest miracle in all this, grounded in the fact that as time rolls itself out, things happen that you could never have seen coming, and sometimes they are things that change the shape of what you thought were life certainties.
Via him, I come from a family that farmed barley, wheat and sheep on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula for four generations, and lived on that farm myself till I was twelve. I was very moved by Tony Windsor's clear statement that the two things he thought would benefit rural and regional Australia most were advances with broadband and climate-change policy, because I could imagine the people I went to primary school with, and their children and grandchildren, living in that landscape I know so well, having the benefit -- not just with regard to business, but also with regard to education and health -- of the NBN, and living in a country not in denial about climate conditions under which they will be among the first to suffer ruinously.
Climate change and the internet are two things that my father's generation - indeed, my generation -- could never in a million years have seen coming. Action on both issues is currently down to the (comparatively speaking) progressives, who are, historically, anathema to the bush. But they are what will help to save it, if anything can, and Windsor and Oakeshott have had the vision to see that and the courage to act on it.
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