Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Katter party gains credibility

Now that they have won seats, they can no longer be dismissed as just a loony idea. And doing so in the midst of a historic landslide to another party is rather remarkable

I voted LNP but I am rather pleased that the Katter party is now a credible force. Katter is from Queensland's far North, where I was born and bred and his views are the sort of views that I grew up among -- and which I still largely hold. And his gains were all in the North. They usually voted Labour up there but did so out of perceived economic self-interest. Rather like the Old Southern Democrats of the USA, they voted Leftishly but were conservative at heart.

It is a tough-minded sort of conservatism up there, perhaps aptly called ultra conservatism. The brainless Left would call Katter's party "far Right" but that conjures up visions of racism and Katter is in fact known for his good relations with Aborigines. He is in fact arguably their strongest political advocate.

And under the Australian system of preferential voting, having two conservative parties maximizes rather than splits the conservative vote

BOB Katter's fledgling party was claiming four seats and pledging to be "ferocious" in opposition to the all-powerful LNP. Katter's Australian Party won Mount Isa and neighbouring Dalrymple while party boss Bob Katter also declared wins in the still undecided seats of Thuringowa in Townsville and Mulgrave in Cairns.

Mr Katter said, on last night's result, the party could secure up to 10 seats in a federal election and declared "the war has just begun". "In 15 to 25 seats, we secured (more than) 20 per cent of the vote," he said, "Yet some of our candidates have only been in the field for six weeks."

Mr Katter said his successful Australian Party candidates would be "ferocious" in opposition. He also blasted a court decision which, he said, cost thousands of votes when the party was robbed of the right to include "Bob Katter" on ballot papers. "That has cost us a great deal in this election," he said.

Mr Katter's son, Robbie, who took Mount Isa, has become the third generation of his family to enter politics while his KAP colleague Shane Knuth will hold the neighbouring seat of Dalrymple, centred around Charters Towers.

But the KAP's state president, Aidan McLindon, lost Beaudesert while one of its star candidates, former cricketer Carl Rackemann, lost the battle last night in Nanango, based around Kingaroy. Mr Katter said that both candidates would be back for a second tilt at the seats.

A party spokesman said last night that Mulgrave was likely to fall to the KAP while the Townsville-based seat of Thuringowa also looked positive.

The party exceeded polling expectations, taking more than 10 per cent of the vote and turning some seats into two-horse races between the LNP and the KAP.

Mr Katter said his son's victory reflected voter disenchantment. "He was never interested in politics until a few years ago," Mr Katter said. "It's a measure of how bad the two main parties are that a bloke who had no interest mobilised himself with enormous aggression."

Robbie Katter was cautious about claiming victory too early but conceded the vote was coming his way. "It was a David (and) Goliath fight - we were battling with probably one-tenth of the staff and budget the others were," he said. "They had been around more than 50 years and we had only been around for 10 months."

The wildcard electorate which did well for the KAP included Mulgrave in Cairns where Damian Byrnes - a doctor and medical officer in the reserve defence forces - put in an impressive performance.

Mr McLindon said that he was satisfied he had played a role in creating a new force on the political scene in Queensland. "This election is a big battle but there is still the war to be won," he said, referring to the federal arena. "At last, we can rest comfortable knowing we have created a good political organisation here."


Great political genes

The winner with his adoring wife

CAMPBELL NEWMAN'S come-from-outside victory had more than a hint of his father's assault on the political ramparts 37 years ago. In 1975 Newman snr, Kevin, stripped the Tasmanian federal seat of Bass from the Labor Party.

Bass had been held comfortably by Labor's Lance Barnard - deputy prime minister under Gough Whitlam - for 21 years. But Kevin Newman, standing for the Liberal Party, won the seat at a byelection with a 14 per cent swing. It was the beginning of the end for the Whitlam government.

Kevin Newman, who died in 1999, held Bass from 1975 to 1984 and was rewarded with a string of ministries throughout the governments of the prime minister Malcolm Fraser. Had he lived, it seems likely he would have relished the dynastic synergy in his son winning the key Queensland seat of Ashgrove, which had been in Labor hands for almost 23 years.

Campbell Newman, like his father, was a soldier before he decided to turn his hand to politics. He spent 13 years in the army, reaching the rank of major after training as an officer at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

The discipline of the military and the political environment in which he grew up - his mother, Jocelyn, was a long-time Tasmanian senator who held several ministries in the Howard government - are mentioned as the combination that turned Newman junior into a public figure.

His period as lord mayor of Brisbane, from 2004 to last year, earned him the title of "Can-Do Campbell", a nod to his efforts at building roads and tunnels and getting himself in photos with a shovel in hand. It is a sobriquet he turned into a political slogan for his party after deciding to run for premier, even though he did not have a seat in Parliament.

The surreal quality of a premier-in-waiting campaigning without a parliamentary seat was underlined yesterday when Mr Newman was unable even to cast his ballot for himself. He doesn't live in the Ashgrove, the electorate he had vowed to win from the Labor Party's Kate Jones.

He had to be content with giving his vote to the Liberal National Party's candidate for nearby Brisbane Central, Robert Cavalucci.

"How are you feeling, Campbell?" cried a voice from the crowd as he turned up to cast his ballot at the Newmarket State School polling booth, in inner northern Brisbane. "Apprehensive," said Mr Newman, keeping a straight face.

Perhaps he was. It had seemed such a high-stakes attempt. Indeed, when he announced his intention to run for premier, the former Labor premier Peter Beattie said: "It's either the smartest thing the LNP ever did or the dumbest." Last night, Mr Newman having weathered a smear campaign about his family's business affairs - one that collapsed when the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission found no case to answer, and Anna Bligh admitted she didn't have the material to back her allegations - it was looking to be the smartest.


New government already under way

Incoming Queensland premier Campbell Newman has dumped Anna Bligh's chief bureaucrat as he confirmed an interim cabinet of three people was likely to be sworn in tomorrow.

Mr Newman joined with overjoyed supporters at a lunchtime barbecue at The Gap, where he was greeted with chants of "Campbell, Campbell, Campbell" following last night's crushing victory over the Labor government headed by Ms Bligh.

The LNP leader, who participated in initial meetings at the Executive Building this morning, confirmed he had asked the director general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, John Bradley, to stand down to help deliver a clean start.

"I won't be requiring his services," Mr Newman said, adding it was not yet appropriate to announce who would fill the role under the new LNP government.

Mr Newman would not speculate about the future of Ms Bligh's husband, Greg Withers, who is a senior public servant in the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

He said he’d met with public servants in the Department of Premier and Cabinet this morning and stressed his top priorities: cutting the state’s unemployment rate to four per cent, restoring accountability to government, and cutting down on waste and inefficiency.

He said from the moment the government was sworn in, he’d order a 20 per cent cut in government travel expenses, a ban on all non-essential government advertising, and a freeze on consultancy work.

Mr Newman said he was planning to meet with Governor Penelope Wensley at 2pm today to advise that he was confident he could form a government. A swearing-in would hopefully take place tomorrow.

The initial swearing-in will see just three members of the new LNP government appointed to their roles - Mr Newman will be sworn in as premier, Jeff Seeney will become deputy premier and minister for state development with oversight of the co-ordinator general, and Tim Nicholls will be the treasurer and minister for trade.

Mr Newman said the various remaining ministerial portfolios would be split between the three of them, ahead of planned changes to government structures to allow the full ministry to be appointed.

"It will be as soon as we can possibly do it," he said when asked about the timing of the full swearing-in.

Mr Newman took the opportunity today to repeat his pledge to keep all of the LNP's election promises. "We will not let you down," Mr Newman said.

Mr Newman would not comment on former premier Anna Bligh’s resignation until he’d heard authoritatively about her decision.

When pressed further he said the LNP would vigorously contest South Brisbane, but would not say who the candidate would be.


Labor brand toxic across Australia, says Tony Abbott

With conservative State governments recently installed right up and down the East coast -- where most Australians live -- Abbott is clearly justified in his view

FEDERAL opposition leader Tony Abbott says the crushing win by the Liberal National Party in Queensland shows the Labor brand is toxic across Australia. Mr Abbott said Labor MPs around the country would be very worried because governments which aren't competent lose "big time"

"I think the Labor brand has become toxic and the only way for the Labor Party to recover is to have a good long hard look at itself, to rediscover what it believes in, what it stands for, who it represents and also to regain a bit of political integrity," Mr Abbott told Sky News.

The Liberal leader said that same political integrity was lacking in the Gillard government. "It is a disaster for the Labor Party because it does indicate that governments which are all about spin, which don't deliver for the Australian people, they lose elections. "And they don't just lose them narrowly. They lose them in a landslide."

He denied that his comments during the campaign that the Queensland election would be a referendum on the carbon tax went too far. "I think that the carbon tax was an issue. It certainly wasn't the only issue," he said.

"Certainly, there were two candidates for the leadership of Queensland, one of the them, Anna Bligh, strongly identified with the carbon tax, another Campbell Newman who was going to fight the carbon tax."

Mr Abbott said the success of Katter's Australian Party which has won at least two seats in the Queensland parliament, does not have federal implications. "A lot of disillusioned Labor people who couldn't quite bring themselves to vote for the Liberal National Party and didn't want to vote Green, more conservative Labor people if you like, parked their vote with the Katter Party," he said.

"But I think that was more a function of state factors than of anything we're likely to see at the next federal poll."



Paul said...

Katter's achievement is being played down by the establishment. Seeney on ABC on election night (with that useless piece of blubber Lucas sitting next to him) dismissed a vote for Katter's people as a wasted vote, saying instead that people should be focused only on the two major parties and their respective policies. Red Kerry didn't challenge him on this affront to democracy. Naturally, neither did Lucas.

Paul said...

I'll let you know if the Queensland Nurses Union suddenly becomes all militant like the ANF in Victoria did as soon as Brumby was out of power. It'll be easy to pick, the tone of their newsletters will suddenly change from fawning helpfulness to aggressive employer-baiting.