Katter's attack on right flank a key concern for LNP
THE Liberal and National parties are grappling with how to neutralise a new political threat from the right after the strong showing of Bob Katter's Australian Party in the Queensland election.
Katter's Australian Party won two seats in its first election, and gained 11.46 per cent of the primary vote across the state. Its strongest support was in northern Queensland, recording a primary vote averaging 28 per cent across 11 electorates.
Based on this result, political pundits said the KAP would win a Senate seat in Queensland, particularly as Mr Katter would garner support from people who usually voted for Senate candidates representing fishing, hunting and four-wheel-drive interests.
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''Those votes that used to flow through to the Nats, a lot of people will now give Katter their primary vote,'' a senior Liberal National Party figure said. ''He is the hunting and fishing vote.''
An adviser to former prime minister John Howard, Graeme Morris, said the KAP was a ''halfway house'' for disaffected Labor supporters who could not bring themselves to vote for the Coalition. ''He's the Bob Brown of the right.''
Mr Morris said that the emergence of a new ultra-right party was inevitable once the Liberals and Nationals merged in Queensland.
Mr Katter said the KAP would move into NSW ''with aggression''.
''People in NSW are just as patriotic as Queenslanders,'' he said, noting James Packer and John Singleton are two of his biggest backers, and the party also receives financial support from mining companies and unions. ''We have a lot of strong support coming out of NSW.''
Mr Katter predicted his party could win four seats in western NSW on top of six seats in Queensland at the next federal election.
The LNP source said the Liberal and National parties would have to combat the KAP threat in the same way Mr Howard tackled Pauline Hanson.
''[Mr Howard] looked closely at the issues that motivated people to support her,'' the source said, citing the example of Ms Hanson's attack on immigration and Mr Howard's declaration that ''we decide who comes into this country and under what circumstances''.
''We'll see what it was shifting votes to Katter and we will deal with the issues our way and have solutions [to those issues] that shift votes our way,'' the LNP source said.
But Mr Morris, who advised Mr Howard during the rise of Ms Hanson, said the Coalition parties were better off ignoring Katter's Australian Party.
''The Liberals are very, very good when they are focused on attacking the Labor Party and the Greens on the left, but they have no idea how to deal with an attack from the right,'' Mr Morris said.