Bob Katter discovers sex is a double-edged sword
DESPITE Bob Katter’s hopes of holding the balance of power in the Queensland election that was held in March, Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party won in a landslide.
This meant Katter’s Australian Party only finished up with two of 89 seats in Queensland’s one-house parliament. More crucially, the latest Newspoll shows that support for Katter’s party has plummeted from the 11.5 per cent share of the vote it gained on March 24 to a mere 1 per cent!
Bob Katter was widely seen as an avuncular and eccentric patriot from the far north, with a proud family tradition of inclusion. Following his highly publicised comments against gay marriage and now the takeover by National Civic Council sympathisers of executive positions within his party, suddenly Katter is not looking so avuncular.
Despite Katter’s many talents, he is looking tired and increasingly reactionary.
I found it fascinating to see the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace crash and burn in a similar way with his anti-gay comments. These caused Julia Gillard to cancel an address to Wallace’s national conference.
These days, sex is a double-edged sword in politics, and political parties and lobby groups can no longer fire from the hip on sexuality and gender issues and expect to hit a big conservative bullseye, as they so often used to.
The fact that former Labor attorney-general and Rudd supporter Robert McClelland has stepped up to the pulpit and agreed to address supporters of this Christian corporation (for indeed it is a company), will not win Rudd’s camp any favours in the broader community. One would imagine that McClelland would have consulted Rudd over this move and it is hard to see it as sending anything other than an anti-gay rights message.
There are lessons to be learned here for social conservatives in all major parties. Men and women in their late 50s, 60s and 70s need to understand that they share more common ground with Generation Y than many think. Marriage is one of these areas.
Baby boomers were the first generation to redefine and often reject marriage as an institution. Despite it being counter-intuitive, my observation is that Generation Y often embraces the concept of one-on-one marriage. It’s just that they believe that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender, has the right to it.
In Katter’s case, I think he was about to win over a chunk of Gen Y and other voters who believed in his oppositional approach to the Coles and Woolworths monopoly and who supported the notions of agrarian civil liberties that he was espousing.
Yet, when Katter came out so stridently against gay marriage and gay people in general, many electors walked away from Katter and voted for Newman instead. The problem for Katter is that not only did he berate and ridicule gay couples in Australia, but also he would appear to have opened the door to the philosophies and social agendas of the NCC, which embraces old-style socially conservative Catholicism, and an increasing acceptance of the political strategies of the American religious Right.
Many would argue that the revamped NCC has become more politically hardline since the death of its original founder, B.A. Santamaria, in 1998. Even Santamaria’s family walked out of the organisation, claiming that the extreme Right had hijacked it.
The new NCC has an extreme dislike of feminism, gay culture, libertarian sexual lifestyles and adult entertainment, and campaigns strongly for censorship in these areas. Since the failure of the Australian Family Alliance party a decade ago, it has been looking for a new national political party with which to ally.
The NCC’s main affiliate is the Australian Family Association, a lobby group founded by Santamaria in 1980. Connected with the AFA are a web of interlocking political/religious groups.
These are all highly organised groups with many committed volunteers to bring to the assistance of a reconstituted KAP. An electoral problem is that they don’t represent a lot of average people in the wider community, including those who don’t mind a beer, the odd X-rated movie, and who have friends or family members who are gay or lesbian.
The NCC’s support for the Democratic Labor Party certainly helped that party’s re-emergence in Victoria, where party vice-president John Madigan won a six-year Senate seat at the last federal election.
Mind you, with only 2.3 per cent of the primary vote, the DLP only squeaked in on Liberal preferences. Had it not got these, the Australian Sex Party’s Fiona Patten would be sitting on the Senate crossbenches right now instead of the blacksmith from Ballarat.
The news from Canberra is that Madigan is often not a strong parliamentary performer and seems obsessed with abortion to the exclusion of all other issues. Nonetheless, he’s there.
The reality is the new DLP has not got much traction north of Albury-Wodonga, so it is not surprising the NCC would be on the lookout for a religiously inclined, socially conservative party – in Queensland and federally. KAP would seem a perfect fit.
Winning two seats from a first attempt wasn’t all that bad. Katter should have bided his time, taken his party’s presence in the Queensland parliament with grace and gratitude, and started building on that for next time. Instead, he seems to have decided to lurch further to the Right by allowing NCC-affiliated members on to his party’s executive.
The perception that Katter now faces is that, after the DLP, Family First, Australian Christians and the Christian Democrats, KAP is now the fifth religious political party in Australia.
How about that?
Professor Ross Fitzgerald is the author of 35 books.
The Weekend Australian October 6-7, 2012 , INQUIRER p 20