Rob Oakeshott

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Rob Oakeshott
Rob Oakeshott Portrait 2010.jpg
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Lyne
In office
6 September 2008 – 5 August 2013
Preceded by Mark Vaile
Succeeded by David Gillespie
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Port Macquarie
In office
30 November 1996 – 13 August 2008
Preceded by Wendy Machin
Succeeded by Peter Besseling
Personal details
Born (1969-12-14) 14 December 1969 (age 46)
Lismore, New South Wales
Political party National (1996–2002)
Independent (2002–2013)
Residence Port Macquarie, New South Wales
Alma mater University of Sydney
Occupation Political staffer

Robert James Murray "Rob" Oakeshott (born 14 December 1969) is a retired Australian politician. He was the independent Member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Lyne in New South Wales, which he won at the 2008 Lyne by-election following the resignation of former Nationals leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile. Elected as the Nationals candidate for the state seat of Port Macquarie in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1996, he left the party to become an independent in 2002, and retained the seat until 2008, when he resigned to run for Lyne in which he won with a very large margin. He retained Lyne at the 2010 election with a large margin, and in the hung parliament, after negotiations, backed Julia Gillard and Labor to form a minority government, providing confidence and supply from the crossbench whilst retaining the right to vote on conscience. Oakeshott did not contest the 2013 election.[1] Oakeshott described his views as economically conservative and socially progressive.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Oakeshott was born in Lismore. His father, also named Rob Oakeshott, is still a doctor in the area and his grandfather Captain John Oakeshott was a prisoner of war and survived the Sandakan Death Marches.[3][4][5][6]

Oakeshott attended Barker College as a high school student and was a boarder in his latter years there. He then studied a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney.[3] He was a resident of St. Andrew's College when the Principal, Peter Cameron, was convicted of heresy by the Presbyterian Church of Australia.[5][7][8][9][10] Oakeshott describes Cameron as an influence on his thinking:[2]

As a student he was a pretty interesting fellow but standing on his digs over some of the speeches and some of the sermons he used to give. And in his parting speech to the students, he said, "I hope the great lesson I've taught you as the leader of this college is that you've got to stand up for what you believe in regardless of the consequences."

— Rob Oakeshott, Lateline, 23 August 2010[7]

Oakeshott graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Government in 1992.[3] He then worked as an administrative officer at the Road Transport Forum, for the lobbying company Resolutions, as a staffer for National Party Leader Mark Vaile and in public relations for the Coalition in Canberra before his own election to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.[3][11][12][13][14]

NSW parliament[edit]

He was elected as the National Party member for Port Macquarie at a by-election on 30 November 1996 after the retirement of National Party member Wendy Machin on 28 August, winning 46.71% of the primary vote against John Barrett, a former Liberal Party candidate who stood as an independent after the Liberals, then led by Peter Collins, decided not to run a candidate.[15][16] At his election, he was the youngest member of the NSW Legislative Assembly.[17]

He stood again at the 1999 election, increasing his primary vote to 56.05%.[18] Under Opposition Leader Kerry Chikarovski, on 19 April 1999 he was appointed as the Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation and the Shadow Minister for Fisheries and Ports. Following a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle on 1 February 2000, Oakeshott lost Fisheries and Ports and took on the shadow portfolio of Gaming and Racing.[3] However, he had become increasingly dissatisfied with the National Party, stating that he was the youngest person at most meetings he attended, and found himself in opposition to many of the party's policies.[2]

Almost immediately after joining the Parliamentary party, he identified a number of points of disagreement, including racism within the party, his republicanism, the National's conservative drug policy and the influence of property developers in the party.[2][19] At the 1999 vote over a safe injecting room trial, he was pressured to hold the party line and considered leaving politics altogether.[19] He later said that he should have examined the National's ideology more closely:

"On reflection, my mistake was I didn't realise the consequence of not doing some more due diligence on ideology," he says. "I just said, 'Oh yeah, they're the party around here, I'm a young bloke, I need a job'. That cuts both ways. I don't think they did enough due diligence on me."

— Rob Oakeshott, The Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2010[19]

He also questioned the relevance of the Nationals in an electorate transformed by demographic change and the growth of tourism.[20]

Oakeshott resigned from the National Party and as Shadow Minister on 9 March 2002.[2][3][5][21] He subsequently retained the seat as an independent at the 2003 New South Wales State election, gaining 69.75% of the primary vote, compared to 14% for the National Party candidate.[22]

During his tenure as the state member for Port Macquarie Oakeshott completed a law degree at Macquarie University.[23]

Federal parliament[edit]

There were suggestions that Oakeshott would stand as an independent candidate at the 2004 federal election against his former boss and National Party leader Mark Vaile in the seat of Lyne, but he did not nominate.

First term[edit]

In April 2008, following the defeat of the Howard Government, Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan approached Oakeshott to consider standing as a joint Liberal-National candidate should Mark Vaile retire and a by-election be called. He did not comment at the time because Vaile had not announced his intentions.[24] After Vaile announced his resignation from Parliament on 19 July 2008, triggering a Lyne by-election,[25] Oakeshott announced that he would consider standing for the seat.[24]

Oakeshott resigned from the NSW parliament to stand as an independent candidate at the federal by-election for Lyne.[26][27] This triggered a Port Macquarie by-election.

Oakeshott won virtually every booth in the electorate, receiving about two-thirds of the primary vote.[28] The extent of his primary vote saw him receive more than $100,000 in electoral reimbursements from the Australian Electoral Commission.[29]

In his first term, Oakeshott voted 32 times with the ruling Labor government (including in support of the proposed emission trading scheme) and nine times with the opposition. He has explained that this record was not indicative of support for Labor's policy platform, but rather because he believed in allowing governments to govern.[30]

Second term – support for minority government[edit]

Oakeshott was re-elected in the 2010 Australian federal election. With neither Labor nor the Liberal/National Coalition having enough members to form government on their own, he became one of a number of independents whose support was sought by both sides in a bid to form a minority government. Among the legislation that he supported was the proposed emissions trading scheme.[31] Oakeshott decided with the other incumbent independents, Bob Katter and Tony Windsor, to negotiate as a bloc. While holding different opinions on the issue of climate change,[32] all three have highlighted broadband as a policy important to them.[33] Oakeshott expressed his desire to establish stable government and raised concerns that a 76-seat government was "a by-election away from trouble" and, to avoid this, he proposed the formation of a government with ministers from both of the usually antagonistic major parties.[34] If no stable government capable of governing for the full three-year term could be formed, he recommended that the government should call a new election.[33]

On 7 September 2010, Oakeshott gave his backing to the formation of a Labor minority government.[35][36] After announcing his decision, he stated that he had been offered a ministry by Julia Gillard and would be considering the offer.[37] On 10 September 2010 he announced that he had turned down becoming the minister for Regional Australia, a portfolio created because of the agreement between himself, Tony Windsor and the ALP.[38] Oakeshott later released a statement saying that he would accept nomination to be the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives if he were nominated by another member, provided proposed Parliamentary reforms were put into place.[39] In the event, he was not nominated, and Labor's Harry Jenkins was elected unopposed as speaker.[40] Following Jenkins' resignation from the speakership in November 2011, Oakeshott was again offered the speakership, this time by opposition leader Tony Abbott, in a deal that would deliver government to the Liberal-National coalition. Oakeshott declined and Peter Slipper, a coalition MP, became speaker, allowing the Labor Party to continue in minority government.[41]

Shortly before the Australian Labor Party leadership spill, 2012, Oakeshott stated that he would not, as a matter of course, continue to support the minority Labor Government if Labor changed leaders. He further stated that he would be prepared to work with whoever could provide stable government and would consider negotiating with the Liberal-National coalition to that end, although his preference would be to deal with former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull over Tony Abbott.[42] In the event, Prime Minister Julia Gillard survived the leadership spill and Oakeshott continued his support for the minority Labor Government,[43] although he again expressed support for Turnbull over Abbott shortly after the leadership spill was decided.[44]

Immigration legislation[edit]

In February 2012, Oakeshott introduced a private member's bill to allow the Australian Minister of Immigration to authorise sending asylum seekers to any country that is part of the Bali Process. In June 2012, following the sinking of two asylum seeker boats in the Indian Ocean within a week that resulted in significant loss of life, the bill was brought up for immediate debate in the House of Representatives.[45] The bill, along with an amendment by independent MP Andrew Wilkie to make the legislation valid only for 12 months, was passed in the House of Representatives with the support of government members and independents.[46] The bill, seen as a compromise between the Government's desire to allow processing of asylum seekers in Malaysia and the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution sought by the opposition Coalition, was not supported by the opposition or the Australian Greens on the basis that it would allow processing of asylum seekers in countries that were not signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.[47] An amendment to the bill, introduced by the Shadow Minister for Immigration & Citizenship Scott Morrison, to limit processing of asylum seekers to nations that had signed the convention was defeated.[46] The Oakeshott bill was not passed by the Senate.[48]

Private life[edit]

In May 2012, Oakeshott revealed that he suffers from Graves' disease.[49]


  1. ^ Griffiths, Emma (26 June 2013). "Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott announce they are quitting politics". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Browne, Peter (3 September 2008). "MP wanted for growing rural seat. Mavericks very welcome". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Mr Robert James Murray OAKESHOTT (1969 – )". Parliament of New South Wales. 26 August 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Kelly, Joe (26 August 2010). "Oakeshott and Governor-General to meet – and only mention the war". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Stevenson, Andrew (24 August 2010). "Uncompromising heretic caught in the national spotlight". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  6. ^ "Sandakan memorial sheds light on an atrocity 64 years ago". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Sales, Leigh (23 August 2010). "Oakeshott: from independent to kingmaker". Lateline. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  8. ^ MacLean, Sheena (20 July 1995). "The 'heretic' at God's right hand". The Age (Fairfax Media). p. 11. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  9. ^ Cameron, Peter (8 July 1993). "The making of a heretic". The Age (Fairfax Media). p. 14. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  10. ^ Stephens, Tony (1 August 1994). "Devil's Advocate Quits Ministry to find God". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). p. 5. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  11. ^ Paul Sheehan (13 September 2010). "Far from an outsider or innocent". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing) Bill – Second Reading". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 5 December 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  13. ^ "Nationals concerned about Vaile's survival". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 August 2004. Retrieved 10 June 2006. 
  14. ^ "Where 220 ex Howard staffers are now". Crikey. 20 July 2004. Archived from the original on 26 May 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2006. 
  15. ^ "State Electoral District – Port Macquarie Results 1996 (byelection)". New South Wales Electoral Commission. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  16. ^ "Will the Liberals Pass on Lyne?". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 July 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2008. 
  17. ^ "About Rob". Rob Oakeshott Independent. 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  18. ^ "State Electoral District – Port Macquarie Results 1999". New South Wales Electoral Commission. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  19. ^ a b c Claire Harvey (3 October 2010). "Why the Nationals turned Robert oakeshott off". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  20. ^ Clune, David (December 2002). "Australian Political Chronicle: January–June 2002". Australian Journal of Politics and History 48 (4): 549. ISSN 0004-9522. 
  21. ^ Green, Antony (2010). "Lyne". The Green Guide. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  22. ^ "State Electoral District – Port Macquarie Results 2003". New South Wales Electoral Commission. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  23. ^ "Macquarie University Graduate Register 2008". Macquarie University. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  24. ^ a b McDougall, Bruce (21 July 2008). "Independent MP Rob Oakeshott tilts at Mark Vaile seat". Daily Telegraph (News Limited). Retrieved 21 July 2008. 
  25. ^ "Vaile steps down from Politics". Mark Vaile. 19 July 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2008. 
  26. ^ "By-elections pressure Coalition's unity". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 August 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  27. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (6 August 2008). "Maverick Rob Oakeshott to haunt former party". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  28. ^ "Lyne by-election 2008". Australian Electoral Commission. 2008. 
  29. ^ "Public funding payments for Lyne and Mayo by-elections". Australian Electoral Commission. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  30. ^ Arup, Tom (23 August 2010). "Profile: Rob Oakeshott". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  31. ^ Coorey, Phillip (22 August 2010). "Power's in balance after rise of the crossbenchers". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  32. ^ Davis, Mark (25 August 2010). "Independents wobble before winds of climate change". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  33. ^ a b Coorey, Phillip (23 August 2010). "Call another poll if talks fail: Oakeshott". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  34. ^ "Oakeshott raises prospect of a mix-and-match government". The Age (Fairfax Media). 24 August 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  35. ^ "Labor clings to power". ABC News online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 September 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  36. ^ Davis, Mark (7 September 2010). "Labor over the line: Windsor and Oakeshott hand power to Gillard". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  37. ^ Lanai Vasek (11 September 2010). "Oakeshott forsakes $100k pay rise by refusing ministry". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  38. ^ Frances Bell (10 September 2010). "Ministerial offer 'attractive': Oakeshott". Lateline. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  39. ^ Glenn Milne (15 September 2010). "Exclusive: Oakeshott makes a bid for Speaker". The Drum. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  40. ^ Rob Burgess (28 September 2010). "Harry Jenkins rules, okay". Business Spectator. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  41. ^ Gillard gives Abbott the slip: SMH 25 November 2011
  42. ^ Wilson, Lauren; Aikman, Amos (24 February 2012). "Rob Oakeshott would switch allegiance but only for Malcolm Turnbull". The Australian. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  43. ^ Willigham, Richard (28 February 2012). "End of the 'distraction'". Stock & Land (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  44. ^ White, Leslie (29 February 2012). "Abbott needs to be 'constructive'". Weekly Times. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  45. ^ "PM unclear if any lost from stricken boat". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  46. ^ a b "Asylum seeker bill passed by lower house". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  47. ^ Grattan, Michelle; Gordon, Michael (28 June 2012). "Our politicians fail again". The Age. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  48. ^ "Senate rejects 'compromise' asylum seeker bill". The Age. 28 June 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  49. ^ Thomson, Phillip (13 May 2012). "Oakeshott diagnosed with incurable disease". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Wendy Machin
Member for Port Macquarie
Succeeded by
Peter Besseling
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Mark Vaile
Member for Lyne
Succeeded by
David Gillespie