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Rob Oakeshott - Platform

  • Rob Oakeshott became a Member of Parliament for the National Party at the age of 25, where he won the 1996 election for Port Macquarie and became the youngest Member of the NSW Parliament in history. He commenced his political career having completed an Arts degree with Honours in Government, and during the course of his tenure in NSW Parliament, also completed a Law degree. While with the National Party, Oakeshott held positions as Shadow Minister for Sport & Recreation, Fisheries & Ports, and Gaming & Racing.

    In 2002 however, he resigned from the National Party over a difference in ideology, and as with Tony Windsor and Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott also achieved an enormously successful primary vote when running as an Independent.

    He retained the seat of Port Macquarie until 2008, at which time he resigned from the NSW Parliament, and contested the Federal seat of Lynne. Again he won over 65% of the primary vote.

    Having been a member of the NSW Public Accounts Committee, the Public Bodies Review Committee and the Regulations Review Committee, his commitment to administrative law, its Integrity Branch, and subordinate legislation, is notable from the very onset of his admission to Parliament. Accountability and oversight of public bodies has been a priority on Oakeshott’s agenda. Borne of his involvement in the House of Representatives Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Local Government Inquiry into the Global Financial Crisis and its impacts on rural and regional Australia, even now he rails against the perceived lack of accountability of public bodies that have lost assets in the GFC.

    In the Federal Parliament, Oakeshott is Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network and the Public Accounts and Audit Committee. He is a member of the Selection Committee, the Infrastructure and Communications Committee and the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network, the Joint Select Committee on the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Panel of the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Peoples, and the Working Group on Water, Soil, and Food.

    He has collaborated with others to re-establish the Parliamentarians Amnesty International Group, that lobbies for those candidates and MP’s around the world being held against their will, and is the Australian delegate to the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Group of the United Nations Development Program, that aims to eradicate violence against women.

    In his first term in Federal Parliament between 2008 and the 2010 Election, Oakeshott voted with the Labor government 32 times, and with the Opposition 9 times. He supported Kevin Rudd’s Emissions Trading Scheme at the time.

    Ideologically, Rob Oakeshott has been influenced at an early age to adhere to his personal values, but while there are claims that his hasty adoption of the National Party agenda at his political debut was due to a lack of due diligence, he has worked for former Liberal Attorney General Phillip Ruddock, has also been an adviser to former Nationals Party Leader Mark Vaile, and has been a public relations officer for the Coalition in Canberra.

    Unknown to many, the Member for Lynne has a vast amount of knowledge and experience from which to draw. After the 2010 Election, Oakeshott was one of the now infamous Independents that enjoyed the king-making role of providing agreements for supply and confidence.

    In his deliberations at the time he was most industrious, and while dismissed almost universally, he suggested a minority coalition - involving members from across the political divide, unifying policy through a Cabinet Ministry contract, taking singular or collaborative responsibility for it within Cabinet, and then remaining free to join their own Party for all other matters.

    With his conservative background he is certainly economically prudent, but many were surprised that Rob Oaksehott eventually supported the Labor government.

    Over time, Lynne has been demographically and economically transformed from agriculture to tourism, and as a social progressive, Oakeshott believes the relevance of the National Party is diminished in evolving electorates like his. With this perspective it isn't surprising that he could not forgo the NBN for his constituents.

    Still, he retains a solid stance for regional and rural Australia, and perceives a fundamental economic flaw in the mismatch of educational opportunities outside of Australian metropolitan areas. With a progressive Labor government, and a Prime Minister with a penchant for improving education in Australia, the opportunity presented itself very well.

    Of note is that Oakeshott has a record of being genuine. He was offered the Cabinet Ministry of Regional Australia by Labor, and another Ministry by the Coalition. However, he preferred to secure reform for Regional Australia by declining the offers, and working toward it on the cross-bench. His sound reasoning reflected the probability that factions on either side of a minority government would seek to block passage of his reforms.

    Again, in 2010 he offered his services as Speaker but was not nominated, and Harry Jenkins' tenure was maintained. Ultimately however, in November 2011 he had the opportunity to undermine the government and accept the Speaker’s Chair. This would arguably have given the Coalition control of the Lower House. Yet he was a man of his word, and believing government ought to be given a full term to realise their potential, he declined the offer and Peter Slipper took the Chair.

    In light of the fact that in seating Slipper, Labor was mitigating the risk of their own repudiation of an agreement with another Independent, Oakeshott displayed much of the same ethical characteristics that he so often calls for from Parliament.

    Oakeshott is often overlooked as a pragmatist and a thinker. He is unafraid to extend the traditional limits of administrative thought, with a view to achieving a compromise in policy. While majoritarian politics is inimical to this approach, Oakeshott’s Private Members Bill on Asylum Seekers displayed much of this virtue. It offered a compromise of the Pacific Solution and the Malaysia Solution, preferring that processing be completed through parties to the Bali Process. While passing the Lower House, this bill was rejected by the Greens in the Senate, as it wasn’t limited to countries that were also a party to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.