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Crikey says: Katter gives voters little choice

First bullying, now Crikey has claims the ATO was dismissing official taxpayer complaints. Bernard Keane wonders how it all got to this on Julia Gillard and Slater & Gordon. How the carbon tax is more popular than Tony Abbott. And the Mark Latham v Andrew Bolt cage match continues.

What fills political vacuums is never pretty. Take Bob Katter’s mob in Queensland.

In 1998, with the conservative opposition in disarray, a new force emerged in Sunshine State politics led by Pauline Hanson. One Nation won almost 23% of the vote, snatching 11 of the 89 seats in Parliament.

Now, a rampant Campbell Newman is opposed by just a handful of Labor MPs after Anna Bligh’s government was decimated at the last election. Few voters could even name the opposition leader.

Suddenly, we’re talking about a new political force in Queensland.

Clearly we are on a roll big time,” Katter told reporters in Canberra this morning. Yesterday Liberal-National Party MP Ray Hopper declared he was dumping the government in favour of Katter’s Australia Party, joining two other party MPs in the Queensland chamber. There’s talk more could switch; Katter reckons the party could even out-number Labor by the next election.

That’s a big problem for Newman, who is struggling to hold together the Liberal and National factions in an alliance that remains no less uneasy since the merger.

But it might be a bigger problem for the state. One Nation was a right-wing force against a progressive government; the rise of hard-right Katter philosophy against a conservative government offers little diversity and, perhaps, even fewer checks and balances in a unicameral Parliament.

Labor must rebuild in Queensland — particularly in the regions — to give voters a choice. And fast.

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  • 1
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Labor cannot rebuild in Queensland, as long as the same factions and factional balances are in place. The reason that the ALP in Queensland outstripped even Joh in rampant corruption was the removal of the democratic process and a replacement of it with a group of factional warlords. There is nothing but a shell.

  • 2
    paddy
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ll forgive many sins Crikey. But abuse of the word “decimated” is not one of them. Anna Bligh’s Govt would have happily settled for decimation.

  • 3
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Some lovely things are going down in Queensland. They deserve the government they voted in. La, la, la.

  • 4
    zut alors
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I second Paddy’s comment.

    One major point of diversity between Katter and the two major parties is his opposition to coal seam gas.

  • 5
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    If reported accurately, Katter’s pro semi-automatic weapons is a scary precursor. I thought Australia had moved beyond this debate.

  • 6
    Mark from Melbourne
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I never got a sense that there was “rampant corruption” in Queensland - I know there was lots of “evidence” of rampant incompetence, but corruption? Although not coming from there I am possibly poorly informed on the subject.

  • 7
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t take Katter’s rise seriously, but if the mayor of Brisbane does, will he counter it by moving more to the right, thus exposing more of the centre to Labor?

  • 8
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mark, hows the weather down there. Here it is always sunny. The corruption was widespread, mainly, though not only through the ruling AWU (Labor Forum) faction, which used Union members funds to forge some very unhealthy alliances with property developers and mining corporations. Leading this charge was the lobbying company “Enhance” where disgraced ex deputy premier Jim Elder became a major bagman. You may remember the other disgraced ex MP Mike Kaiser, who also admitted electoral fraud and went on to become Anna Bligh’s chief of staff and whose main job was to push privatisation through, as he had attempted in NSW as Morris Iemma’s chief of staff. The main hotbed of the “nasty little crooks” was the Labor Unity faction which kept the AWU in power for 22 years, and one of their MP’s was our local MP in Sandgate, Gordon Nuttall, now serving an extended sentence in prison. However your assumption of incompetence is quite correct, as indicated by the health payroll scandal, where the new IT section under Rob Schwarten, managed to save $250,000 in extended software rental, to sadly cost the Queensland taxpayer about a billion dollars. The only thing positive that could be said for the Qld Alp, is that the Newman (or NUKEMAN) government, is even more incompetent, and doubtless will prove to be more corrupt. What wonderful choices the two party system gives us.

  • 9
    cairns50
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    anna bligh proved once again that moving to the right in politics does not gain you there vote or hold your middle ground

    once she privatised all of those state owned enterprises where was there for labor supporters to go?

    thats right excuse the pun, may as well vote liberal

    will labor ever learn ?

  • 10
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    What’s happening in Queensland lends credibility to an old argument against merging the Liberal and National Parties - that it would create a niche for a right-wing rural based party. Enter Katter.

    Note that he’s in a lot of ways less hard right than an old-style agrarian socialist.

  • 11
    michael r james
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Michael Crook, you reveal either ignorance or partisanship in your exaggerated remarks. It is quite ridiculous to compare the Labor rule of this state with the Bjelke-Peterson era. No one would argue Australian state governments, anywhere, show the greatest competence or are squeaky clean. Nuttal was a corrupt fool and his own government brought him to justice (for taking $300k as a “interest-free loan”).

    The Health payroll mess is on a truly horrendous scale but it remains quite unclear exactly who is to blame, though of course it is not unreasonable to hold the Minister at the time responsible. There were two major errors, one was to not continue the old system (which was going to cost a lot more than $250k and was subject to hardball play by the supplier) before the replacement system was stress-tested; and two, the new software was accepted without specific warranty by the DoH. Note that the new LNP government has not clarified matters — which suggests that the “fault” is not so simple and probably lies within the public service side of the department and quite probably private-sector “buddies” across the party divide.

    But try if you can, to imagine Brisbane and Qld at the end of the Bjelke era to the current status. And don’t tell me that the old conservatives would have done the same. When I first arrived back here in the 2000s, I was staggered by the hospital redevelopment underway — and since has seen every single hospital site utterly transformed in the last decade. Three massive medical & biotech institutes have been created (IMB, Millenial Inst. & QIMR expansion). Where was the money coming from, I wondered.

    Likewise it was Labor who built the Busway system (BCC had nothing to do with it and even fought against it at times) without which PT would be in (even more) crisis than it is today. Newman and Quirk will delay our transition to a proper public transport system worthy of a modern city.

    The privatizations were merely politically incompetent. I know you as a banana-bender will reflexively be against it but the reality is that finances and good governance demanded it (and I am a “lefty pinko” socialist.)

    The reality for Queensland is that Labor dragged the state out of the dark ages to the point, on almost all important criteria and indexes (education, health, infrastructure, state GDP per cap; higher Ed & R&D, the arts, environment), it finally reached parity with the southern states. What didn’t happen is that this equality of lifestyle and opportunity was not matched by appropriate government income. We (actually you and your ilk) are like those idiot dumb Republicans we saw during the recent American election: they want a modern state without paying for it.
    Having said that, the debt is not as horrendous as Newman and others grotesquely distort for purely ideological reasons. And who IS reminiscent in actuality, of the Bjelke era.
    Read John Quiggin (a Queenslander and rare sensible economist). (Try his article, crikey.com.au/?p=306762).

    Finally, my own position is that yes, it was time for a change of government, to refresh the ranks. My prediction seems to be coming true: that with any luck Newman will be a one-term wonder. (I thought with that majority he would have to get two terms at least but he is so p*ssing off his own team, he’s losing ministers at a great rate, and his policies …).

  • 12
    michael r james
    Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    michael crook Posted Monday, 26 November 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I have made a reply to your remarks but it is too long and is stuck in moderation. Please come back tomorrow to read.

  • 13
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Some lovely things are going down in Queensland. They deserve the government they voted in. La, la, la.

    Less than half of the population had the LNP as their primary vote; I think that’s a little harsh.

  • 14
    michael crook
    Posted Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Michael James, thank you for your measured and reasonable response to my comments. Indeed I agree, that the ALP made some long overdue changes in the early (Goss) years before the corruption became widespread. Sadly, no time for a long debate, but just a few notes. Gordon Nuttall was known to be on the take, by his own admission, by local Sandgate branch members, of which I was one, more than 2 years before his misdemeanors caught up with him. Indeed, this was the reason I ran for preselection against him in the early 2000’s, only to have Peter Beattie send a letter to all branch members that Gordon was an essential member of “Team Beattie” and they must vote him back in. Which of course they duly did. It made no difference anyway as the “Electoral College” which has 50% of the vote is always tied down by factional agreement. I joined the ALP in 1989, having returned from working in the NSW coal mines and seen at first hand how little the mining corporations cared about the lives or wellbeing of their workers and joined the ALP as the ALP policies on industrial safety and working hours were very good. These policies were completely ignored by the ALP over the next 20 odd years until the party and I parted company. Autralia’s embrace of the illegal (ILO conventions) working rosters and lack of construction safety all happened under Labor Governments. Why, because the factional hacks that run the party, union or otherwise, have no idea about what the working life of a worker in industry is all about. They are concerned only their own careers, indeed Labor is no longer a cause, just a career, and it shows. The worst thing of all is the feeling of betrayal that loyal ALP branch members feel, they have, after all been betrayed. Thanks again, love to have a coffee sometime.

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