As Christian Kerr wrote yesterday, the important thing to watch in the opinion polls is the trend, not individual surveys. John Howard might want to eat his words about the Galaxy Poll’s reliability if the next one shows a swing back to Labor. Galaxy does have an excellent record in state elections, but I’m sure that the firm itself would caution against over-interpreting one poll.

Nevertheless, the poll has brought some interesting characters back into the limelight.

It’s being reported in the Courier Mail that Independent MP for Kennedy Bob Katter is being “courted”, along with Tony Windsor, by both sides of politics. The source for the story appears to be Katter himself.

Nevertheless, it would be very surprising indeed if both sides of politics hadn’t been talking to Katter and NSW Independent Peter Andren. Swings are rarely uniform, and the arithmetic of the vote’s distribution and the mountain that Rudd correctly asserts he has to climb might just put the Independents in a very powerful position where they get to determine the government.

The odds aren’t actually that high, but it’s been noted this year already that Labor has been facilitating procedural moves from the Independents in the House and frontbenchers like Anthony Albanese praising their contribution.

Katter has dropped a very big hint about which way he might be leaning:

“If you were trying to antagonise me you could not be doing a better job,” he said, pointing to the recent decision to allow imported bananas into Australia and the apparent lack of interest in helping the ethanol industry.

Conversely, he heaped praise on the Labor leader and claimed credit for Rudd’s decision to denounce Premier Peter Beattie’s merger plan for councils.

Three weeks ago, Rudd surprised many when he appeared at a press conference in Townsville with Katter to criticise the proposal and introduced Katter as “my friend”.

In Beattie’s first term, he secured minority government with the backing of two conservative regional Independent MPs.

Katter’s father, also a long serving MP for Kennedy, was once a member of the ALP before the 1957 split in Queensland, and like Barnaby Joyce, Bob Katter has always stood on the socially conservative wing of the state Nats. His economic populism might incline him towards Labor, but a sticking point has always been Katter’s conservative Catholic views on “social issues”.

Perhaps Rudd’s much touted conservatism and churchgoing might produce some strange alignments in the Sunshine state after the only poll that counts?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey