21 October 2011
How big could Bob be?
It's a tantalising question, with Bob Katter's Australian Party building on its candidates ahead of the state election.
They now have more than 30, and are aiming to have two thirds of the electorate covered by Christmas.
It was only 13 years ago, but it's still incredible to reflect on the almost overnight popularity of One Nation in this state. Pauline Hanson's party won 11 seats, and gained nearly a quarter of the vote (23%). Bob Katter says while he admires Ms Hanson's convictions, he's not quite sure what they were.
The question is, can he make a similar impact in state politics?
The federal member for Kennedy won't be running in the election himself, but he's the face of the party – the party's ‘brand' is Katter. With the LNP and ALP fighting a bitter war of words even before the election is called, he'll be hoping his candidates can provide a genuine alternative, and cash-in on any voters looking for an alternative to the big two. But what seats can they actually win?
His son Robbie Katter announced last month he would be running in the seat of Mt Isa, and will be hoping to follow a long-standing family tradition by becoming an MP. The seat is held by the ALP's Betty Kiernan, but with nearly a quarter of the votes going to an independent in 2009, it's not dominated by the major parties.
Aidan McLindon, the party's state leader, will be trying to retain his seat of Beaudesert, which he won as a member of the LNP, before he quit to become an independent, before then forming the Queensland Party, and then finally becoming part of the Australian Party. All since the last election. Weather those that voted for him in the last election are still behind him, time will tell. One notable absentee from the ballot this time around will be one P Hanson.
Former test cricketer Carl Rackemann is entering politics, and will be running for the seat of Nanango. It would seem to be a winnable seat, currently held by independent Dorothy Pratt. Queensland's deputy Premier, Andrew Fraser, thinks the Australian Party can win up to 10 seats, and believes the most likely are regional seats such as Hinchinbrook, Burdekin, Mirani and Warrego. But his comments must be taken with a pinch of salt – he's hoping all of the ground they do take will be from the LNP.
The Australian Party's best chance of influence, as a minor party, is to hold the balance of power. Campbell Newman's party holds a healthy 60-40 two-party preferred lead in the polls, so the Australian Party needs to eat way at that margin. Whatever one thinks of One Nation's policies, the reason they succeeded was because they campaigned on issues on which voters felt Labor and the LNP were in cahoots.
The established policies are still being finalised by the party, but it appears the focus will be on key issues that relate more to rural voters, such as coal seam gas, the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths and ethanol fuel.
In his address at the Queensland Media Club today, Bob Katter said he wasn't ready to commit to exactly what action he would take on, for example, coal seam gas, were his party to hold the balance of power. If he wants to have the impact of One Nation, he needs to remedy that indecision. Minor parties are never going to get the air time of the major parties, and have to make every minute count.
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