The move by the Palaszczuk government to cut the number of parliamentary advisors allotted to the Katter Australia Party is a great demonstration of how an authoritarian cast of mind can present itself as a champion of liberal values.

The KAP has three members in the Queensland parliament, led by the son of Bob Katter, Robbie Katter, or Bob Katter Jnr. (Since Bob is himself the son of the late Bob Katter, a far more formidable type than his progeny, I guess they should be Bob Jnr, and Bob Jnr Jnr.) The KAP was awarded several extra advisers as a price for their support after Campbell Newman — remember him? — was turfed out and a hung parliament elected. It’s a not unusual deal.

Now, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is being taunted by the LNP about the deal because the mad Katters have failed to condemn former One Notion senator Fraser Anning, whose nativist speech contained the nasty, attention-getting phrase “final solution” regarding Muslim immigration. So the govt has removed the extra advisors, saying that “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from responsibility”. The irony — it is barely irony — is that Palaszczuk is using totalitarian methods to combat allegedly totalitarian speech. To remove support from a parliamentary party, even if it was extra support, for what they have said, or even worse, for their refusal to say something, is an attempt to control speech within a parliament through non-speech means.

That is thuggery, nothing more, nothing less. Why stop at the extra advisers? Why not remove KAP’s paid staffing altogether? Surely such paid staffing is facilitating abhorrent speech as much as the extra staffing? Ah, but such a move would reveal how anti-democratic the Queensland government is being.

Meanwhile, the Palaszczuk government has contracted with Serco to run a women’s prison, which will be substantially composed of Indigenous women jailed for non-violent crimes, or petty assaults incidental to alcohol abuse. This is handing incarceration to a firm that presided over rampant sexual abuse and inmate enslavement at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre in the UK, the illegal eviction of asylum seekers from Serco-run accommodation in Glasgow, presiding over a regime of self-harm and brutality on Christmas Island, and letting violence spread in remand centres they ran in New Zealand.

This is a firm that a Labor government should have nothing to do with. They are essentially selling women, selling black skin, to get a difficult issue off the books — abandoning the responsibility of progressive governments to find ways other than incarceration to deal with minor crimes and their social causes. All that and using financial threats to curb free speech.

What an interesting approach Anastasia Palaszczuk has to fighting fascism.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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