'Pointless' to back Abbott in opposition: Crook
WA National MP Tony Crook has admitted he will return to the cross-benches after backing the losing side in the race for government because ongoing support for the Coalition was now a "pointless" exercise.
Mr Crook, who was one of four independents under pressure to side with the major parties to form a minority government, announced on Monday night that he would back the Coalition over Labor to form government.
I didn't see that there was a need to support the Coalition by joining them in the first instance.
However, he maintained his support was not an endorsement of Coalition policies, on which he is yet to reach agreement, rather a preference for the lesser of two evils.
Now that his fellow independents Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor had provided Julia Gillard with a majority in Parliament, Mr Crook said there was no reason for his tenuous alliance to continue while the policy differences remained.
He has confirmed his intention to sit on the cross benches until he and Coalition leader Tony Abbott could reach agreement on key policies.
"Tony Abbott acknowledged that WA was under-done for infrastructure and he acknowledged that it should get a fairer return of GST, but he certainly didn't make any offers," Mr Crook said.
"It was pointless backing the Coalition. They were keen for me to join them to adopt their policies but they weren't keen on accepting mine."
"I didn't see that there was a need to support the Coalition by joining them in the first instance."
He said his position was made clear two days after polls closed, when a political deadlock became a bigger possibility.
"It was untenable for me (to support Labor) when I'd campaigned so strongly against the mining tax," he said.
"Unless it was going to be disappearing, there was nothing more to discuss. But I don't think the three independents took my view into account when making their decisions."
Returning to his Kalgoorlie base yesterday, Mr Crook said he was sure his constituents would have been relieved at his decision not to back Labor.
WA Nationals president Colin Holt said Mr Crook hadn't turned on the Coalition by backing them in the election race but not pledging his support in opposition.
"What he's saying is Julia Gillard's policy about the mining tax is something that the campaigned upon in Western Australia, so how could you then support a Gillard Government?" Mr Holt said.
"I don't think there was any point in supporting (Tony Abbott) any more than that."
"He's not just a number that makes up the numbers, he's in a position now where he can negotiate for the best deal for WA, he's in that group where his vote could really matter."
Curtin University political analyst Harry Phillips has been closely watching the WA seat of O'Connor, which Mr Crook snatched from veteran Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey at the August 21 election.
Mr Tuckey has not spoken to media since the election, but is due to break his silence in a press conference at 1pm today.
Professor Phillips said the admission showed Mr Crook's decision was an effort to give himself "a bit of flexibility".
"It seemed to me that he had adopted a cross-benches line and then the day before (the government was announced) seemed to indicate that he was going to be more firmly a member of the Coalition," Professor Phillips said.
"I thought he had a view that the Coalition were going to win government and it would be better to be on the side of the winner."
He said Mr Crook's chances of holding on to the seat relied on the delivery of benefits and policies that would impact on his constituents, which, outside of the Royalties for Regions-style program proposed by Mr Crook, would be provided by Labor.
"Every time he has spoken to the media I think he's been articulate, he's been able to justify his stance," he said.
"He was in a invidious position but that was inevitable if he was going to win because the Nationals in WA at the state level have payed an innovative new role in West Australian politics and he was attempting to do that on a national level I think."
The WA Liberal party was helped to power by the Nationals after the 2008 state election also resulted in a hung parliament. As part of that agreement, WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls was able to extract enormous concessions from the Liberals, the biggest of which was the establishment of the Royalties for Regions Scheme that sees 25 per cent of WA mining royalties earmarked for investment in regional areas.
Professor Phillips said the move was unlikely to have a lasting effect on relations between the Liberal and National parties.
"It's a little bit like in WA, I mean as an independent National, he is just reserving that right to not just rubber stamp a Coalition position and I think that they will understand that," he said.
"I think they might not like it but I think they'll have to accept it."
A Federal National Party spokesman said Mr Crook's decision not to sit in the joint party room was in line with his pre-election stance.
"We understand he has always said he would sit on the cross benches but he's intending to sit in the National Party room, and we're very happy to have him on board there," the spokesman said.
"I think what is really critical here, is that he went to the election making a set of promises and that's what we'd expect. It might make things a little easier logistically (if he'd sided with the Coalition) but we're comfortable with his decision."