The new independent from Tasmania, Andrew Wilkie, wants ''adequate staffing and office space to deal with the workload of an independent member of parliament''.
Judging by the list of ''priorities'' he served up to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday, he'll need an office the size of his home state just to house his ambition.
Replace the Royal Hobart Hospital, kill Gunns' Tamar River pulp mill, dramatically speed up the national broadband network rollout in Tasmania, free dental care, limit bets on all poker machines to $1, urgently introduce a carbon price, increase all pensions and allowances, allow a conscience vote on gay marriage . . . Yes, and another 15 modest ideas. Unaccountably, he forgot to mention a four-lane bridge from Tasmania to the mainland.
Bob Katter arrives at Parliament House in Canberra for further talks with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Photo: Glen McCurtayne
It seemed quite a wish-list for an MP who squeaked in to Parliament with a primary vote of about 21 per cent, thanks to preferences from Greens and Liberals that put him ahead of Labor, which got 38 per cent.
He's clearly been studying the wily old Tasmanian Brian Harradine, who used his balance of power to very nearly sink his state beneath the weight of federal government handouts.
Still, Wilkie remains a sideshow compared with the three crucial independents, Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, whose biggest demand seems to be that no one upset their delicate feelings.
Oakeshott was frightfully offended that the hoary Liberal farmer, Senator Bill Heffernan, had phoned his home and left a message saying ''the Devil'' had called.
Farmer Bill, it happens, uses this peculiar term to introduce himself to just about everyone he calls. It's supposed to be self-deprecatory and tongue in cheek - he knows everyone blames him for just about everything - but in the anxiety engulfing the main parties as they try to woo the independents, you'd swear Heffernan had committed a wickedness worthy of Lucifer himself.
The independents tried to use it as an example of some orchestrated harassment campaign, Abbott offered a grovelling apology and even Barnaby Joyce, who has been known to drop the occasional clanger, declared himself appalled.
Bob Katter, meanwhile, had to retire from his claim to Muhammad Ali status. Apparently carried away by his newfound fame, he claimed a National Party figure ''threw a punch at me on election night''.
''I'm one of those blokes, you throw one at me and I'll give you 10 back,'' he bragged. ''And he got 10 back and I haven't heard from him since.''
It sounded a gripping tale from the outback . . . until Katter's office issued an explanation.
Katter had been referring to a verbal stoush on TV with National Party leader Warren Truss, and there hadn't been an actual punch thrown.
In the bush, they've got a term for that sort of embroidery: all hat, no cattle.
Tony Wright is Age national affairs editor.