Bob Katter’s son Rob Katter is Katter’s Australian Party’s new member for Mount Isa. Photo: Melissa NorthTHE political spectrum mightn’t figure it, but by his own admission freshly minted right-wing Mt Isa MP Rob Katter shares more than a few political views with the left-wing Queensland Greens Party.
On issues like coal seam gas and the power of Coles and Woolworths, Mr Katter aligns with the Greens, though it “hurts (him) politically to admit it”.
But when it comes to social platforms on issues such as same sex marriage and gun laws, the line of his father’s Bob Katter’s Australian Party is the polar opposite than the position taken by their Greens rivals.
KAP won at least two seats at the state general election at the weekend while the Greens again won none. The newer party attracted 11.6 per cent of the vote state-wide, compared with the Greens’ 7.4 per cent, although KAP state leader Aidan McLindon lost his seat of Beaudesert.
So what has KAP got that the Greens don’t, and what do the results say about voters in Queensland?
Australian National University political marketing lecturer Andrew Hughes said a drop in the Greens’ primary vote could be partly put down to voters tarring the party with the same brush as ousted Labor leader Anna Bligh.
But running alongside strong anti-government sentiment, particularly in the west and north of the state, was an undercurrent of social conservatism, Mr Hughes said.
Deakin University political lecturer Geoff Robinson agreed and said the swing right spoke to the long held view Queensland was Australia’s most conservative state.
When compared to the lower house gains made by the Greens in the New South Wales general election last year, Mr Robinson said the Queensland result suggested progressive platforms had less traction north of the border.
In NSW, the Greens claimed one seat and 10.28 per cent of the primary vote last year.
In Queensland, the party will not have any representatives in the Legislative Assembly and registered a 1.1 per cent drop in the primary vote state-wide.
This result to date puts the party 4 percentage points behind KAP, which claimed 11.6 per cent of the primary vote overall, which Mr Hughes said was enough for KAP to be considered “a lot more than a bunch of rednecks that drive utes with guns in the back”.
Dr Robinson said the result showed there was still strength for “this really traditional, social conservatism in Queensland which the old National Party was very much associated with under Joh Bjelke-Petersen”.
Queensland Greens convener Andrew Bartlett said there was no doubt Queensland had a strong conservative bias, but was eager to avoid the “Sir Joh stereotype”.
Mr Bartlett said fears Queensland had devolved to the “redneckery of the past” had to be deflated.
But Rob Katter, who won with an almost 22 per cent swing against Labor, said “going backwards” was exactly where KAP aimed to go.
“I see myself as a true conservative,” Mr Katter said.
“I get incensed when I hear people saying we’ve split the conservative vote; there is no other conservative vote. We’re the real conservatives who care about small business and private enterprise and the family unit.
“I mean, look at [the LNP] social policy on gay marriage and those things – how can you even begin to call them conservatives when they’re [supporting same-sex marriage]?”
Mr Katter said many people in regional and rural Queensland were frustrated by what they saw as social policy being “dictated by green-thinking academics” based in Brisbane and the southeast.
“They’re looking for a real conservative alternative – and I’m happy to take criticism for being conservative because at least you know where I stand,” he said.
“The irony is the only other party that has a set of core principles is the Greens party.
“I don’t agree with them, and the word ‘green’ is political poison around [Mt Isa], but at least you have a sense on where they’re going to vote on any issue.”
Still, Dr Robinson said social conservatism was a declining force in Queensland politics, despite the election of two KAP MPs and some “very conservative people” under the LNP banner.
“That’s been a bit of an issue down in Victoria actually,” Dr Robinson said.
“Sometimes issues around human rights and so-on sets up tension between the small l Liberals like [Premier Ted] Baillieu and the more conservative people in the party.
“But then Bligh’s government was also pretty socially conservative – look at abortion law reform, they didn’t do anything about that.”
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