CATHY McGowan’s presence in the federal parliament has come even more sharply into focus after the citizenship crisis claimed another scalp on Saturday.
Former tennis star and commentator John Alexander resigned his position in the Lower House and will head to a by-election for the seat of Bennelong in the lead-up to Christmas.
His chances of winning back the seat are considered less certain than National Party leader Barnaby Joyce winning the December 2 by-election in New England, also created as a result of the citizenship fiasco.
With two Coalition MPs on the sidelines for the last two sitting weeks of parliament before the by-elections, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s reliance on Ms McGowan and other cross-benchers support for stable government will be seriously tested with Labor sniffing a chance to create as much mayhem as possible and prolong the narrative of the Coalition losing control.
Labor has strongly hinted it would move motions to amend penalty rate laws or set up a banking royal commission.
On the issue of penalty rates, Ms McGowan has backed the government, but on a banking royal commission she has sided with Labor.
The issue of penalty rates has created some discomfort for Ms McGowan in her own electorate and could hinder her re-election chances if and when an election is called.
She has relied on votes from traditional Labor supporters and disgruntled Nationals to beat Liberal Sophie Mirabella at the last two elections in Indi.
Ms McGowan has, to date, resisted calls to cash in on her newfound position of power in Canberra and lobby for a greater share of infrastructure spending in Indi.
Even if she did the window of opportunity is too tight given the crisis unfolding around the government.
But, in the medium to longer term Ms McGowan needs to think how her position can be used to the betterment of Indi because at the end of the day that is the first and foremost reason she was elected.
The true value of having independent representation with a government holding a wafer thin majority is going to be really tested in the coming weeks and months.
Some tangible results would guarantee Ms McGowan a third term and confirm once and for all independents can make a difference.