The merger of Bob Katter's Australian Party with the recently formed Queensland party creates a new far right in Queensland politics. Many now ask if Katter can achieve what One Nation couldn't: a sustainable political entity on the far right of Australian politics.
The mainstream conservatives in Queensland have seen the base split in two before. In 1998, Queensland elected 11 One Nation MPs to its State Parliament and a One Nation senator federally. Over one million 'Hansonites' voted for One Nation. One Nation received nearly 23% of the vote.
In 1998, One Nation successfully won seats on the back of anger with the Borbidge Coalition government. One Nation won Coalition voters who deserted Borbidge but couldn't bring themselves to vote ALP. This time the Australia Party has to try and win seats with the ALP bleeding voters to the LNP. There is no pool of traditionally right wing voters looking for a new 'home' in 2011/2012.
However, the LNP and ALP both face challenges in regional seats where One Nation did well in 1998 and in seats where the number one issue of concern is Coal Seam Gas mining.
Therefore, the ALP should be looking at the seats of Thuringowa, Mulgrave and Whitsunday for a possible Katter attack. All of these seats were won by One Nation in 1998, and in the case of Mulgrave, Bob Katter is the local federal MP.
The LNP could struggle to retake Beaudesert from Aidan McLindon and Burnett from Rob Messenger.
In order to succeed Katter needs three things: candidates, cash and networks.
To be effective, the Australian Party needs candidates to stand in all 89 Queensland seats or risk looking like nothing more than a more redneck version of the Queensland Party. However, for the Australia Party, they have inherited all of the current Queensland Party candidates. This is a good start; however, inheriting former McLindon candidates who have been vetted out by the ALP or the LNP will not be enough in races where they are competitive with a major party.
The party needs a well-resourced campaign in all 89 seats. To do this, the Australia Party will need support networks to fold into their structure. This will mean engaging the networks that the Australian TEA Party are trying to cobble together. The Australian Party will need to blend the old Country Party image with that of One Nation.
Without networks, they will not get the candidates and will not get the booth workers to be competitive on election day.
Winning voters is something Campbell Newman has done successfully as Lord Mayor of Brisbane. In 2008 he won the Lord Mayoral vote in every Brisbane City Council ward. His credentials in terms of winning over centrists and ALP voters are unquestionable. However, if the LNP alienates its base it creates more space for the Australia Party to take seats from the far right.
This threat to the LNP's right is real with new polling out last week suggesting that the percentage of people voting for "other parties" is higher then the Greens primary vote.
This is a problem the conservative forces have faced before. For the sake of the anti-Bligh forces in Queensland, it can only be hoped that they remember the lessons, both political and historical from the challenges faced from the far right. Failure to read these lessons by the LNP, could mean that the right vote in Queensland is split and the LNP get a Katter shotgun out and shoot themselves in the foot; just like in 1998.
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