The Katter Australian Party anti-same s-x marriage ad has topped the charts as the most viewed and most discussed political advertisement of the Queensland election.

As Kim Jameson noted yesterday, the ad has attracted almost universal condemnation:

If Andrew Bolt is calling Bob Katter’s ad “disgraceful”, the man with the white hat doesn’t have too many friends left. The country’s most prominent right-wing columnist wrote on his blog … with reference to Katter — “this man is toast”.

Nor, as she also wrote, have the various defences to the backlash offered by Bob Katter and state KAP leader Aidan McLindon quieted the storm.

In yesterday’s Cairns Post, Barron River KAP candidate Brendan Fitzgerald spoke out against the tactic:

“We’ve so far risen above all this hideousness, and to be passed the nappy two weeks before an election is disappointing,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“(Head office) sees a percentage of votes against gay marriage and they try to appeal to them — but I think you’ll find that most candidates would rather not have those votes; we’d rather have our community’s respect.”

Crikey can now reveal that dissent within the Katter party is not limited to north Queensland.

KAP sources have told Crikey that the ad was purely the work of campaign director Luke Shaw, who is best known as the foreman of the jury that acquitted Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1991. Candidates were not consulted, and learnt about the ad when it appeared in the media and when emails from upset voters hit their inboxes.

McLindon has rapidly moved towards the Religious Right since leaving the LNP. However, many KAP candidates express the view that intolerance should not be rewarded, and that the party has lost its chance to represent those voters who are attracted by its economic and community policy positions.

In this, they are almost certainly right. Bob Katter frequently refers to Pauline Hanson’s success in 1998. But much has changed in a modernised Queensland, and overt displays of prejudice — once common gambits in Joh-era politics — now look archaic and disturbing.

At one point, KAP stood to gain somewhere between four and six seats. Its chances now seem much reduced, with two (Nanango and Dalrymple) being the most likely. Where the party had a good chance, as in some north Queensland seats and seats around the Downs, the opportunity to represent local dissatisfaction on issues such as coal seam gas and metropolitan-centred governance is receding fast.

McLindon said recently that a majority of Queenslanders held old Labor or Country Party values. That may or may not be so. But within his own party, Crikey has been told that at least half of KAP’s candidates oppose the tactic, out of conviction and out of despair at the trashing of the party’s stated values. This conflict within KAP will come to a head, and Crikey will be watching.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey