Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Seeing the future

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.

25 comments:

Tim said...

Nicely said. The slow hand clap treatment Oakshott got on Twitter and other such sites was a disgrace and it continues tonight in the pages of "major" online newspapers. It will no doubt set the tone for coverage from here on in.

Also note the wilful misinterpretation of Windsor's comments about Abbott going to a new election. Sure, what he said originally seemed blunt, but he clarified and did so again on 7:30 report tonight. But that will not stop the "narrative".

Both incidents brightly illustrate how the media is incapable of dealing with matters other than on the most basic, black and white level.

fxh said...

People on either side of the big parties have more disdain and loathing for the dreadfulness of the media/journos and press than they do for their idealogical enemies.

Thats the big change to come out of this.

Meredith said...

Thank you, for reminding me of being mindful.

Link said...

fxh--yes, I've recently been wondering how the teachers of communications were/are feeling about the generation of sprog they've spawned. Not of course that they can be blamed entirely for the low base that Australian journalists and media outlets operate from but in some instances I think all institutions who produce comms grada should reconsider how they drum into these kids notions of ethics, manners, personal restraint and yes, mindfulness.

The MSM wields its power to emotionally manipulate anyone within its gaze with impunity without the 'mindfulness' to realise that its power to manipulate human weakness often results in distortions of the 'truth'. The 'truth' it likes to remind us it is hellbent on constructing to get the story that in its own mind (lessness) will have broad appeal. i.e. catering to the LCD. What they are in effect doing is holding this country back from the big potential it has to be something other than racist, sexist, ageist and venal. Issues on which it also reserves the right to have a two-way bet.

Off with its collective head! Its power is completely disproportionate to its ability to consider the consequences of skewed reportage. Of course by and large most of its young gun journos have grown up consuming exactly the same sort of tripe they serve up, so its no wonder they just keep regurgitating the same crap and thereby confounding us ever more.

Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter can tank the good Lordy above that their time in The Sun was relatively brief. They did good and I very much liked that 'the press' had no idea 'till the last which way they were going to jump. I could have told 'em a few days ago that Katter was going to split. Oakeshott was clearly going to jump in with Windsor else he wouldn't have been so, confidently longwinded.

Bernice said...

Kerryn, thank you. This remarkable moment deserves nothing less than your piece. And it is why I am cautiously optimistic as I watch people behaving like adults - thoughtful, considered, ignoring of the hype of media cycles, and yes at times ponderous. But for god's sake they weren't choosing a new car; they were choosing a country's next government. Just as significant a decision as choosing one's partner - something few of us would do in 17 days.

I'm sorry about your father but I suspect Gillard + Indies just might end up impressing even him. Here's hoping.

(Christopher Pyne is currently torturing metaphors on RN Brekkie - can't you ground him back there in Adelaide?)

Link said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate H said...

Yes I had the same reaction and then I realised - Oh, Oaky is trying to preempt some of the vicious criticism he knows will be coming his way, along with the cries of 'but this isn't a legitimate result' in three, two, one...
As I've said on Twitter, you can see the narratives forming: Windsor is self-interested, Oaky is a bumbling naive rambler. Why should we trust them? Plus the whole 'not a legitimate government' line, which we're going to be hearing oh, every 20 minutes or so for the next few years.

cristy said...

Yes, exactly. I had a 3yo in the room chomping at the bit to watch Playschool while Oakeshott was making his speech and it was the perfect reminder for me to be the adult and to listen patiently to him. I was also keenly aware that this was his one and only chance to set the record straight about his reasons before being torn about by the waiting hordes for it.

The impatience on Twitter was incredible. Even Lily calmed down fairly quickly and just waited until the end fairly peaceably.

TimT said...

Personally I think Rob Oakeshott's speech was not about him. He chose to keep the entire nation waiting, and he should not have done so. He has been and will be given more opportunities to explain his decision: he chose exactly the wrong moment to make that explanation. Aside from anything else, it was an extremely bad tactical decision to make such a speech at that moment - months and years from now people will remember this, and the image of a waffling, indecisive, egotistic man will stick with him, and probabl get him chucked out of parliament next election.

Nicole said...

I had ducked out of the office to get something just prior to the announcement and had hoped to get back to watch it online, but when I saw Tony Windsor take his place on a TV in the chemist I had to stop and listen. I too felt completely impatient (knowing I was due to be back at work 5, 10 , 15 minutes ago) but then too stopped and thought about the significance of what I was watching and just waited to the words.

Quite an interesting place to be for such an occasion - in a chemist in Blacktown surrounded by supporters of both sides. It felt like being at a sporting match, with everyone rooting for their team. I am sure glad my team won though!

TimT said...

What a lovely story Nicole. Personally I'd ducked out of work to get lunch; Oakeshott was on the telly when I left, and still on the telly when I got back. I'd actually got back to work by the time Oakeshott announced his decision.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

TimT, I disagree (well, obvs) -- Oakeshott had been saddled with an impossible burden by the democratic process of the nation, and he had every right to "keep the whole nation waiting", as you put it. He knew perfectly well that this was his best chance of explaining his choice and having his explanation heard by the country and not interrupted by a pack of media hyenas and conservative spinners asking stupid, aggressive questions. And they are sure having their go this morning.

As I say, I think the fault lies with us for having drunk the kool-aid of constantly expecting instant gratification. (Though I do agree that he could have kept it down to, oh, say, ten minutes, rather than the full tortuous seventeen.)

As for him losing his seat at the next election, that will surely happen anyway, and Oakeshott probably knows it. I for one was incredibly (though not instantly) gratified by the sight of a politician, two politicians, who really did seem to believe that there were other and more important things in life than hanging onto their seats at the expense of everything and everyone else. All the right-wing rubbish about Gillard being 'desperate for power' gave me the utter shits, considering that the conservatives, in that respect, are every bit as bad.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Nicole, yes, that is indeed a lovely story. I imagine there were little vignettes like that all over the country, too. I bet there are a few publicans mopping up spilled beer and the odd puddle of blood this morning.

TimT said...

I did wonder why they decided to keep everyone hanging until Tuesday afternoon when presumably they must have made a decision at some time before (Sunday evening? Monday morning?) And I speculated whether Oakeshott, Katter, and Windsor spent those last two days in tactical haggling over who was going to make what announcement, when. Presumably Oakeshott is an honourable guy, and maybe he just said, 'fine, I'll speak last and do the boring speech'. Or maybe not: we'll probably never know all the details of what went on in those last few days.

But I still think he could have kept his speech shorter. He didn't need to say much - just make a few dignified remarks about key areas of concern, thank the parties he negotiated with, and announce his decision. Heck, if it matters that much to him he could just start drafting his autobiography now. Ah well, we've got a government now.

SueB said...

Well said, thank you.

Chris Grealy said...

I personally found it very refreshing to be able to hear them explain their reasons and reasoning in detail, and I don't give a fig if the media were upset. I was glued to the ABC's coverage from the time Katter made his announcement, in fact for longer than I watched on the night of the election. I believe this Parliament will be a fascinating one to watch, even though the opposition will be doing their damdest to sabotage the whole thing.

Emily said...

Not sure whether or not TimT's lunch consisted of a sh*t sandwich but his reaction mirrors many of the comments I've heard about Rob Oakeshott's statement BUT I certainly don't draw the same conclusion.

I felt it was a thoughtful and detailed explanatory statement of the deep consideration the Independents had given to the responsibility on their shoulders. As Rob Oakeshott had indicated, if he had not given his rationale at such depth (I consciously do not use the word "length"), even fewer people would have understood the integrity with which they had all approached the task (Bob Katter included).
I have enjoyed today the responses of Tony Windsor to the accusations of "self interest" being thrown at him. He readily agrees there is self interest - the interest in having a morally defendable outcome not only for his community but for Australia as a nation.

Frankly if I wanted a dictatorship I'd be happy to nominate Rob Oakeshott with some roles for both Tony Windsor and Bob Katter.

P.S. By the way, given your comment regarding family, I think I can see where you may be coming from with your comment "In terms of one's own personal development (and the more I see of certain people in their 70's and 80's) the more determined I become never to abandon the effort to do Better", but you know - surprise, surprise -once you have gained a sense that you can develop even further it doesn't suddenly stop when you hit 70 or 80. It's as much part of you as Mindfulness.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Emily, I wasn't meaning to disparage the aged, in fact I was making the same point you are. From my observation the default ageing process is to get more and more like caricatures of ourselves as we get older, with irritants like bodily discomfort thrown into the mix, and one can either be self-aware and try to mitigate that, or, erm, not. I've just been over-exposed to a couple of particular over-75 examples of self-unawareness (one family, one not) this week, is all.

Peter Kemp said...

"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."

Thanks for that Dr Cat, I had exactly the same feelings, even more so as I will explain-this was a most important moment in history and I thought at the time I must absorb it all.

I happen to live in the New England electorate and have the utmost respect for TW who saw a client of mine (DOCS matter) in our legal chambers when I was absent,a human rights issue at stake for which I was unable to be present but he came anyway. I thought of that during his speech and it was an additional humbling moment, Tony W did that at my request and gave up an hour of his time for my client, the mother. The least I could do was listen, and even if he spoke for an hour I would have still been there.

The guy is a gem, with a heart of gold.

Elisabeth said...

We can all get wordy when given half a chance.

I'm glad for the time its taken. I'm glad that Oakshott has the courage of his convictions.

Growing takes time.

TimT said...

Emily, the cafe were all out of s*t sandwiches, so I went for the toasted chicken sandwich instead.

phillhunt said...

Great post PC.

I had similar feelings and experience. Listening to Oakeshott's speech on the car radio and then spent about 10 minutes sitting in the car in the driveway waiting for the announcement.

I did get a bit frustrated by Oakeshott's seemingly self indulgent speech but, like yourself I had to remind myself that this was a truly historic moment in Australian politics and that moment deserved a decent explanation and a bit of indulgence.

Tony said...

Oakshott and Windsor reminded me of the Gettysburg Oration vs. the Gettysburg Address.

Edward Everett orated for about two hours. Then, almost before he had sat down, Abraham Lincoln had finished addressing. Abe spoke for about two minutes.

Which is the more famous speech?

Red Horse said...

I wonder if this historical moment - Oakeshott's and Windsor's announcement, I mean - will become one of those "Where were you when..." moments. Where were you when you heard about Kennedy's assassination; saw the World Trade Centre fall; received news of the death of the former Princess of Wales; and so forth.

I heard Katter's announcement on the car radio. Then I met with the vet in order to euthanise a lovely horse I've had for twenty-five years (he was 31 and his time had come). By the time we were done and I felt able to drive home the announcement had been made.

And now the two momentous events (the horse and the hung parliament) are an entwined part of my personal history. Strange. And possibly a great title for a book - if only I could think of a decent plot to go with it!

Politically, I couldn't be more pleased but you'll understand if the day remains a bittersweet one for me.

Mindy said...

Commiserations Red Horse. 31 years is a long time together.

I was desperately waiting for the announcement while watching the clock tick around to school pick up time. I was reading Crikey and some of the comments were quite funny which helped me stop shaking (luckily I was in the office by myself). I was anxious for a result so that I could get to the school so I only heard Tony Windor via Crikey live blog before I had to head out to the car. Fortunately Rob O was still talking when I got there and I had time to blot the tears of relief from my eyes before collecting my son. Who, by the way, was very happy to have Julia and Kevin back because he likes Tony zero percent and Julia and Kevin two hundred percent. Phew, I did something right.
So that day for me will be all about a decision that made me cry with relief and the utter joy on my seven year old's face when I told him the news.