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So Bob Katter formally lodged the form to start the Australian Party with the AEC last Friday. He formally launched the party today.

Let the humour begin. Given the campaign ad that Katter ran, I think this will be a godsend for journalists everywhere looking for a light-hearted story:

That said, there is a significant portion of the electorate who would flock to someone like Bob Katter and the laughter of the chattering classes would only ever egg them on.

The Pauline Hanson story is not simply the tale of the hidden racism in our country, it is also a symbol of the latent socialism lurking in our politics. Hansen’s economic populism resonated as strongly in the 90s as Mike Huckabee’s economic populism resonated with the Republican party in 2008.

So whilst I am far from suggesting that Katter will become a force (from the North) to reckon with, I would say that it would be folly for the major parties to ignore him.

Of course, Katter’s peculiar brand of crazy might be off-putting. Both Hanson and Huckabee’s charm stemmed from their ordinary-fish-and-chips-shop-owner and folksy attitudes respectively. They were ordinary country folk, whereas Katter is an extraordinary country man. His economic policies are… out there. He wants to legislate to keep Coles and Woolies market share down to 22.5% each, so a total of 45%. How that would work when Woolies alone has 40% market share is beyond me. Perhaps he’s force Woolworths to sell half of its store. But who would buy them?

His other policies are less whacky. There is a very strong groundswell of support for the idea that there is too much environmental regulation on ordinary people, controlling where and what you can fish; stopping hunting and 4WDing etc.

And you can’t look at Hanson and Huckabee in isolation from their political contexts. Hanson came to power at a time when Labor shifted to the right economically, and the Liberals were even further right on economics. There was no party for the dumb protectionists. When Huckabee ran, it was at the peak of GFC fear and he polled best in rural areas. In the present day, it is well known that Tony Abbott is an economic incompetent. Unlike the Howard Government, he is fighting in the corner of the country – fighting against a carbon tax whilst fighting for direct action on climate change (by which he means paying farmers to plant trees). I think he might have been saying mean things about the Murray Darling Basin scheme and environmental flows. Equally though, Abbott has failed to protect farmers in crucial areas. He opposes the NBN, in favour of a plan with much slower internet for regional areas. He supported the ban on cattle exports to Indonesia. And he is not actively campaigning in many of the areas which Katter is.

So in conclusion, there is no conclusion. Katter. Watch out for him.

Edit: Ben Raue from the Tally Room puts the issue far more eloquently than myself. Bob Katter has the ability to coalesce the different streams of right-wing minor parties (agrarian socialism, social conservatism, anti-environmentalism) into one right-wing niche party, just as the Greens combined the different streams of left-wing parties into a reasonably potent force.

Whilst I focussed on the interplay between the Australian Party and the major parties,the Tally Room looked at the implementation of the party. I for one have doubts whether the Mad Katter (*nod to Jonno Head and Mungo McCallum*) could pull this off. He’s never been known for clarity of vision. Ben Raue makes the important point that Katter is old, and may not stick around long enough to see his party come to fulfillment. Good point! But he is a rather intransigent little bugger. He may just stick around for the hell of it.


One Comment

  1. It’s been rechristened by Mungo MacCallum: The Mad Katter’s Tea Party.

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