THE anticlimax to a day that exploded into rolling footage and reporting of the federal government yesterday provided another day of extraordinary politics in the life and times of Tony Windsor, who’s seen a few in his career.
The independent MP, who holds a balance of power for the Gillard government, was as glued to the breaking news as the media, politicians and many a man-in-the-street, who watched as a leadership spill looked likely to pitch former PM Kevin Rudd against his successor, Julia Gillard, with pundits predicting a slim win to the man once known as Kevin 07.
At 4.20pm yesterday, Mr Windsor was speaking with The Leader to give us a forecast of today’s news, where he might be and where a government without Gillard might be as a result.
It all fizzled out moments later, of course, but before then, the Canberra press gallery was riveted to the action.
Mr Windsor had one eye on the TV, too, while speaking with us as we canvassed the prospect of him withdrawing his support for the Labor government, being offered another deal from a new PM, or the prospect of an earlier election, if the independents deserted the government.
“I don’t have a clue who will win and I don’t think they know, either,” Mr Windsor said as the spill meeting began.
“My arrangement is with the current Prime Minister; it’s not a transferable document.”
He was waiting for the decision to decide his next move, or have them decided for him, by approaches from any new incumbent.
He was quite happy to talk to people but was not going to make any judgments or calls without breathing in and out a few times.
“My gut feeling this morning was that no, nothing was going to happen. And you can’t believe anybody in this building, but from what I’m hearing Rudd is probably sweating it out,” he said.
When she survived, he said of Julia Gillard: “She is absolutely bullet-proof. I have never seen a woman like her.”
Mr Windsor described the events of the past few days as classic and extraordinary politics.
He said he spoke to Senator Barnaby Joyce, the candidate most talked about as his next opponent in New England now that Richard Torbay has departed so unceremoniously, at a media function late on Wednesday night.
He asked him if he was standing, just like every other media person has done, too, but said Barnaby just smiled and sailed on by.
Mr Windsor was the only one yesterday to throw up another prospect for The Nationals to challenge him in New England – Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner.
Like others, Mr Windsor agrees Senator Joyce polarises people, particularly his own. And, apart from being a high-profile Nat, he said Mr Stoner would be a “blocker” to Senator Joyce moving into the lower house and perhaps challenging federal leader Warren Truss.
That was supposed to be Mr Torbay’s job; keeping Joyce out.
He’s gone and the party now needs a strong Nat to fly their flag. Mr Torbay might have captured some of the 30 per cent or so of the vote that wouldn’t vote for The Nationals if you fed them grog for a week, he said, doing the maths and forecasting what the challenger needs to achieve to oust him.