It takes a fair degree of political cunning to win a House of Representatives seat as an independent and even more to hold it for a lengthy period. Bob Katter, then, is clearly not someone to be laughed off as some kind of political jokester.

Underneath the hat there’s a shrewd player of the political game and I think he’ll prove it when his Katter’s Australian Party offers itself to voters for the first time. Its team at the forthcoming state election will ensure that the Queensland LNP does not quite have the walkover it has been expecting.

Meanwhile, back in Canberra, the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd would do well to take the advice of his unlikely friend. This morning independent Katter argued that Labor would be “stupid” to change leaders before the middle of next year. “It doesn’t matter where they are at the moment, it’s where they are going to be in six months’ time or even 10 months’ time that counts. “If Kevin is out there for two years, the slings and arrows would come at him. So politics would dictate waiting till late next year.”

Being the good politician, and therefore not wanting to be taken for granted, Mr Katter was coy about whether he would vote to give a Rudd led Labor Government a majority in the House of Representatives if Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie withdraws his support if and when his poker machine law fails to win parliamentary approval. But in the end I would expect him to support his fellow Queenslander.

His state would expect it of him and last August while negotiations to form a government were at their height, Bob Katter was quoted thus:

Bob Katter said his decision to hand power to Labor would be a done deal. “If Rudd was still in the seat, it would be very hard to go against Kevin,” he said. …

Mr Katter said Mr Rudd had been an effective prime minister and he was a close friend.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was not as effective as PM, he said.

“Julia has an awful track record. The only portfolio she held she stuffed up.”

Peter Fray

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