Canberra Quadrille Retrospective

This photo by Andrew Meares of L-R: Bob Katter, Adam Bandt, Tony Windsor, Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Crook is featured in a story by Misha Shubert about the Independent MPs who negotiated with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to decide who should form government after the election in August, 2010, which resulted in a hung parliament. It prompted me to add another verse to the pome I wrote at the time.

Canberra Quadrille

Can’t you work a whole lot faster?” said Mr. Rabbit to poor Robb.
“I’ve got Wilkie waiting outside. Find a billion for his mob!
Independents too are watching, please make sure they get the same.
No dance this. Nor the pokies. There are high stakes in this card game.
Wilkie, will you? Wilkie won’t you? Come on play the game!
You’re reneging, Wilkie? That’s not how to play the game!”

Now he’s talking to Rob Oakeshott, making sure he clearly sees
The rule of play to tow back boats is not cruel to refugees.
Then he hears the cry, “Too harsh. Too harsh! This is a national shame!
No thank you, Mr. Rabbit, but I cannot join your game.
Could not, should not…..almost surely I won’t play that game.
Should not, might not…. pretty certain I can’t play that game.”

Now mad Bob Katter’s wish list puts Queensland on the map!
Mr. Rabbit nods, “Great! Thinks, like me, that climate change is crap! “
But mate, Kev, advises Bob he’ll win more playing with that dame.
So he hasn’t made a contract and he’s yet to join the game.
Says he should not, might not, may not join the other game.
Though he might not, but he still could, join the other game.

Cards are on the table now. One man yet to show his hand.
Windsor, honest and much respected throughout Downunderland.
High repute, Mr. Rabbit thinks, enhanced by that royal name.
Oakshott, could not? Katter may not? Windsor’s surely game!
No deal yet done. No play yet won. Still, he makes his claim.
Could nots, should nots, would nots, to him they are all the same.

POST SCRIPT 28/08/11.

A year’s gone by. Mr. Rabbit has not by any means
Won over Tony Windsor who’s gone and joined the Greens.
They are plotting with that woman he’s trying to defame.
He’s made her so unpopular the country’s all aflame,
But no one wants to vote for him. They want another name.
But Mr. Rabbit cannot, will not, accept that no one wants play his game.

NOTE: I found the article by Misha Schubert in the Age very heartening. It was headlined One year on, no regrets for the independent six   Bob Katter and Tony Crook did not join the other four in supporting Gillard. The others spoke in very positive terms about the reforming achievements of the government in the past year with particular emphasis on the quality of leadership shown by Gillard which vindicated their decision.

Andrew Wilkie was very appreciative of the Prime Minister whom he thought deserves credit for making a hung parliament work, and said ”So long as she goes full term, this will go down in history as one of the great reformist governments. Think of all the big reforms – the carbon tax, national disability insurance, re-engineering aged care.” He was equally complimentary on The Insiders where he expressed the view that the government could still turn the polls around. Among the many reforms which he mentioned as being achieved by the government was the National Broadband Network.

For Tony Windsor, of course, the NBN was a major factor in his opting for Julia Gillard’s government and he was duly appreciative of that and the amount of other investment and services achieved for rural areas as was Oakeshott. But as well as the positive comments about current strength of the government and Julia Gillard’s talents Tony Windsor has caused a minor furore by repeating Tony Abbott’s desperate plea for his support to become Prime Minister. ”the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse – but I’d have to give serious thought to it.” Tony Abbott has rushed to deny saying that, and avows that he doesn’t use that sort of language! Windsor has come back very strongly saying that Abbott’s denial only confirms his reasons for not supporting him.
I’m itching to write a few verses about this once I’ve seen what the media make of it!

Among the many interesting features of Schubert’s article on the Independents was that although her headline was “No regrets” there was one man who did have a big complaint. Bob Katter felt very let down by Tony Abbott’s failure to honor a pledge the Coalition would put up laws to mandate ethanol in fuel – a lifeline for an ailing sugar industry. Since this was a promise in return for Katter’s support one has to ask oneself if Abbott really intended to honor it, or was he lying when he made it?

The original inspiration for this pome, written a year ago, was Lewis Carroll’s Lobster Quadrille, whose format I used for Canberra Quadrille. Since then Malice In Downunderland has become my favorite metaphor for the craziness of the political scene here in Australia which far surpasses anything which Alice experienced in Wonderland with the March Hare (my Mr. Rabbit, LOTO Tony Abbott) and the Red Queen {PM Julia Gillard). The negotiations behind the scenes between the Independents and Tony Abbott on the one hand and Julia Gillard on the other were sometimes like a dance and at other times a hard headed game of poker. The title just fell onto the page since the Quadrille is an old courtly dance, still enjoyed in Canberra at the annual Colonial Ball. As well, of course Quadrille is a card game of extreme complexity, also known as Médiateur at which women, particularly excel!

Julia Gillard proved herself a very skilful mediator/negotiator and was able to win over and retain the loyalty of four of those Independents. I bet she’d make a great Quadrille player. Maybe she’d be great at the dancing too! She can clearly attract and retain partners. A year on the government she formed then on the basis of those negotiations and alliances is still effective and achieving its legislative program despite raging controversy and the undermining of her personal credibility by Tony Abbott’s sensationalist sloganeering and negative opposition. Will he ever understand why that is not winning him personal popularity?

25/03/13, after the bloodbath of previous week made the role of Independents even more crucial in a likely motion of No Confidence by Abbott when Parliament returns in April. Great overview of all Independents and their voting patterns


Casablanca,    28/08/11,    Patricia WA, you’re on fire. Go girl! Thanks for all the pomes, I’m in awe of your abilities.

Feral Skeleton,    28/08/11,    PatriciaWA, I second that emotion! Your work is every bit as good as Banjo Patterson’s or Henry Lawson’s. You rock n roll girl!

Gravel,     29/08/11     Comment Well done again Patricia. I see the media didn’t make much of Abbott’s foul language, but I am not in the least bit surprised. It has confirmed for me that he CAN do and say anything and WILL get away with it.

Talk Turkey,     29/08/11     You are headed for fame as Poetess of the Struggle, and that is a Working Class Heroine award if ever there was one. I adore Lobster Quadrille, have known it all my life since before I was born! But never fear Folks:

Wilkie will not, shall not kill not, will not kill our will!
Should not, would not, should not could not, could not kill our will!

Su,     05/09/11,     Well said, PatriciaWA, she’s made working with a hung parliament look like a doddle. I just can’t bear reading most comments on Gillard anymore, they are so obviously informed by unacknowledged sexism.

Patricia WA,     06/09/11     Underlying misogyny is part of the problem, but Murdoch and the media backed by mining magnates (how’s that for alliteration!) are the real killers, I think. But on second thoughts that may explain the readiness of even rational people to buy into the obvious lie that Julia Gillard just can’t be doing a good job. Ad Astra at the Political Sword tackles this disconnect between the reality of her government’s achievements and the apparently popular view that she is at best hopeless and at worst wicked. A bit like the myth about women drivers still held by many against all the evidence!    Thanks Su, you’ve given me an idea there!


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