Victorian Senate Group V: Mad as a Katter?

I actually shouldn’t get too carried away making jokes about Katter’s Australian Party, because I haven’t even looked at their website yet – and the last vote compass thingie I filled in actually had me showing up as 40% Katter’s Australian Party, so I could well end up being the one who looks silly here.  Which wouldn’t be the first time.

Besides, the whole Kat in the Hat thing is just irresistible really.

Anyway, I should probably stop being frivolous and get on with looking at Group Voting Tickets, which are always illuminating.  Katter is preferencing the Country Alliance and the Australian Independents, followed by the Climate Sceptics, One Nation and the DLP.  Good lord.  His vote then wanders down through a handful of Christian and Right Wing parties, before hitting Family First, where it may well stay.  At 60, he sends his vote to his former friends in the Nationals, followed by the Liberals, Labor and the Democrats.  The last place on the ticket is reserved for the Australian Sex Party, but the Greens have the much-coveted, second-from-the bottom slot.

I think it’s safe to say, based on this – and, let’s face it, based on sundry comments by Katter himself over the years (because while I can’t say I’ve been paying very close attention, Katter has a knack for the quotable quote) – that Katter’s Australian party is not really an environmentalist or socially liberal party and tends to lean to the right in general.

Let’s have a look at the party website, which starts off by informing me that “A vote for us is a vote for you!”.  I’m not entirely sure that covers all the possible ‘yous’ out there, but carry on…

I feel that it is important to mention that the header does contain a photo of Bob Katter in The Hat.

The website then enquires whether I want something more than spin?, and if so suggests that “It’s time for a new kind of government”.  Like – and I hesitate to say this – the Greens, Katter’s Australian Party basically puts forth the argument that Labor and Liberal are pretty much the same, and if we want real change, we need to look elsewhere.  Look, if Katter and the Greens agree on something, it’s probably worth some serious consideration, don’t you think?

(admittedly, the argument also serves both of them quite well).

I am finally informed that:

Bob Katter’s team, with the ‘balance of power’ will:

    1. Mandate premium shelf space in Australian supermarkets for Australian grown and processed foods.
    2. Mandate that all government cars will be Australian made if ‘fit for purpose’
    3. Stop the sale of public essential Australian assets.
    4. Introduce and apply the right Key Performance Indicators to the assessment and remuneration of all bureaucrat managers.
    5. Reform education to inject life skills into both primary and secondary curricula: that is, training in effective communication, financial, career and life planning.
    6. Eliminate the Carbon Tax, prevent an emissions trading scheme.  Promote the efficient use of biofuels and effective new energy technologies.
    7. End to the ‘Nanny State’ – a state of over-regulation, burdening business and stifling personal freedoms.

That’s a really interesting collection of policies, right there, and 1-5 are all things I’d very happily see put into practice.  I really do love the idea of putting Australian products up front and centre in our supermarkets, and life schools in school would also be fabulous.  Point 6 is frustrating, though it’s pleasing to note that, this election, even fairly right-wing and anti-Green parties are beginning to acknowledge that new energy technologies might be a good plan (not all of them, admittedly, but a lot more than in 2010).  And they want to end the ‘nanny state’, which could mean a wide variety of things, but I do wonder if all their desire to end regulation and such is going to conflict with priorities 1-4.

Moving on to their About Us page, there is some really interesting stuff to look at.  I would actually recommend reading their Values and Principles statement, because it’s a quite well-thought-out and detailed document.  Do keep going after the first few paragraphs, because while it does talk about Australia’s Christian heritage (and I really wish it wouldn’t, because this can exclude a lot of people), they then head on to some really good stuff at point 4:

Governments should develop and promote policies which maintain and advance a modern mixed economic system that will ensure economic growth, full employment, equitable distribution of income, rising living standards, prosperity, opportunity and equality of access to such opportunity for all Australians, to ensure:

  1. freedom of speech and expression which should not be abused by intimidation, malice, violence or wilful intolerance;
  2. equality of opportunity;
  3. equality before the law;
  4. social cohesion;
  5. acceptance of personal responsibility and accountability;
  6. support for those in genuine need while that need exists
  7. encouragement and nurturing of individual initiative, and the development of every person’s, and especially children’s, talents and skills to the maximum;
  8. responsibility to contribute; and
  9. respect for all talents, skills and occupations, regardless of the level of formal education required to acquire them.

I have to say, I’d rather like to live in a society that held these values, and I begin to see why I had such a high Katter score on that quiz.  Other fascinating little gems are the freedom to collectively bargain and a strong stance against privatisation of essential services… but then they start going on about the freedom to pursue outdoor activities and the importance of keeping marriage between one man and one woman.  So there’s quite an interesting mix here.

Oh and just in passing, Katter’s Australian Party also has the Eight Pointed Star as its flag, because they, too, are inspired by the spirit of Eureka.  What a bunch of anarchists…

On the whole, though, I am mostly feeling reminded of the Australian Independents – so far, it seems like quite a similar profile.

Let’s check out some policies.

Katter’s Australian Party wants to get back to the basic ‘Three Rs’ in education – which is not to say that they don’t want to do more, but “the focus should be on providing a solid foundation of reading, writing and mathematics.  This is required, as each stage of education should be considered as a building block, or stepping stone to the next, regardless of what that stage may be.”  They also want to focus on teachers – recruiting, promoting, rewarding and celebrating great teachers, and they have some interesting thoughts on how to measure this:

The single most important variable in determining the success of any student is the effectiveness of the teacher.  The reason KAP is focussing on the teachers, is that we realise that they are the solution to the education problem; the problem is the system in which they are forced to work.

The question then becomes how do we measure student effectiveness? Through student growth; that being, it does not matter the standard of the student at the beginning of the school year, only that they have improved under the guidance of their teacher, and are able to do so year after year.  KAP wants to work closely with teachers who are passionate about developing standards and metrics which will allow for a useful and practical evaluation for ensuring student growth.

Bolds are mine.  I think that’s a far better system than straight standardised tests, frankly.  The KAP also want to link bonuses to student growth, which may or may not be workable.

I will admit, there is one bit of their education policy that I find basically incomprehensible:

KAP proposes a more grassroots approach to education; removing the current hierarchal and bureaucratic structure will provide greater control to principals and teachers, dramatically reducing costs, and allowing for the reallocation of funds to where they are most needed; the schools, principals and teachers, and most importantly, the students.

I have absolutely no idea what that would entail or how that would work, so I can’t really comment on what I think of it.

Unsurprisingly, the Katter party is very big on the importance of farming, and reminds us that “no civilisation in history has survived long after it foregoes the importance of the economic viability of its agricultural production base”.  They are deeply concerned about the lack of market protection for farmers, who are forced to compete with foreign markets, and are very unhappy about the deregulation of the agricultural markets and the ‘aggressive trade liberation ideology’ pursued by previous governments.  A key issue is the fact that overseas markets receive a lot more protection and support from their governments, making competition very difficult, and it is pointed out that increasing affluence in general doesn’t actually help farmers much, because the proportion of income consumers spend on food doesn’t increase in line with increasing income.

Actually, I need to pause here and comment that this is a particularly well-written party website, as they are explaining all sorts of things that I don’t understand very well and haven’t been hugely interested in the past – like economics, for example – and making them comprehensible and interesting.  Nice work, whoever wrote this.

Lots of solid, protectionist policies here, including the aforementioned premium shelf-space, better infrastructure including roads, rail and ports, a national crop insurance scheme, and tariffs to protect Australian producers from international competition.  More creative policies include mandating ethanol use, to support the grain and sugar industries, and tougher quarantine restrictions on incoming food.  They also want to restore irrigation water to agriculture in the Murray Darling Basin, and I’m really excited because I now understand a bit more about what that’s all about, thanks to a brief lecture over dinner last night from my friend Gillian.  So I can tell you with at least a little bit of confidence that this is not going to be a popular policy in South Australia, because it sounds to me like there will be increased irrigation at the top of the river system, leading to less water at the bottom.  This would be a local policy for local people…

Katter’s Australian Party is also very big on keeping public assets and infrastructure in public hands. A big theme in their policies is that past governments have been too short-term in their thinking, and it comes up again here: selling off public assets can balance your budget today, but leaves you in a bigger hole down the track.  The KAP is also concerned that these essential services which get sold off frequently end up as monopolies in private hands.  Interestingly, while they want to invest in public infrastructure – road, rail, dams, and particularly communications – they are very much against the NBN which they think is too expensive and not particularly beneficial.

On the subject of Climate and Environment, the Katter Party is both excellent and frustrating:

The reality is that we borrow the world from our children and grandchildren and we should strive to leave it in as good or better condition than we found it. KAP is strongly committed to the philosophy of being “honorable ancestors” in the context of being climatic and environmental stewards.

Science is our best tool for understanding the world around us.   Science is responsible for the knowledge that has produced the technology we rely on in the modern world.

Yay, science!  There is acknowledgment that human activity is warming the climate and that this “is cause for considerable concern because our civilisation depends on climate stability in order to support the current global human population.”  With that sentence, I am suddenly reminded that Katter is from a rural electorate, and that climate is of course going to be of pressing concern to farmers.  The KAP makes some very sensibly-worded points about the need for renewable energy, and the face that it is not necessarily more expensive than fossil fuel generation systems.  In fact, I think they make this point more clearly than any other party so far:

In regard to the development of new power generation infrastructure, the cost of wind and solar energy systems will be no greater than fossil fuel generation systems. Bloomberg New Energy Finance notes that wind is already cheaper than new coal or gas fired generation and solar soon will be. These are critical points because renewables are often painted as expensive when compared to fully depreciated forty plus year old fossil fuel plants, but this simplistic cost comparison is not borne out when we fairly compare the cost of renewables against capital cost of new fossil fuel systems required to replace the ageing fleet or meet new demand.

So why on earth are they giving the Climate Sceptics such a high preference on their forms?  Nope, I don’t know either.

There is, of course, a however:

There is, however, an ongoing demand for fossil fuels and KAP is committed to responsibly exploit the current energy market to maximise Australia’s competitive advantage in the provision of cleanest possible fossil fuels to meet the ongoing demand for as long as it persists to ensure the best possible economic outcome for Australia and to extend the jobs in the current energy sector.

And they then move on to provisions for preventing CSG extraction near aquifers, extending the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, ethanol for fuel, and support to land managers in delivering ecoservices – though also the ‘right of farmers and other citizens to manage their resources and live without uninvited interference.’

You know, if this policy had been out there ten years ago, it would have been absolutely brilliant.  It affirms climate change in clear, non-pretentious language, it addresses a lot of concerns about the financial cost of change, and it’s aimed, and I think well-aimed, at the audience which really needs to start changing its mind on this. It also comes from a voice that rural electors and swinging voters might listen to, because it’s not a one-eyed extreme environmentalist nutcase voice, it’s salt of the earth stuff. It sets things up for a steady, non-politically-messy change to renewable energies without scaring or upsetting everyone.  The problem is, it comes about ten years too late, and I think things have now moved to a point where urgent action is necessary.  A real shame, I think – but it might still be soon enough to be of some use if enough people read it.

Sadly, a lot of this seems to get forgotten in the energy policy, which is mostly about preserving energy security and really only talks about fossil fuels, though there is a call for energy efficiency and a nod to the need to ensure that “the impact of the generation and consumption of that energy is not unfairly borne by future generations”.  Actually, it’s more accurate to say that the preamble does talk about the need to move towards renewable energies, but the policies themselves don’t actually go there, beyond talking about investing in a stable energy future.  This is a bit disappointing after the environment policy, I must say.

The KAP feels that the Public Service has become ‘over-administered’ and is frustrated that “since the Liberal National Government took office in Queensland, there have been 14,000 front line jobs cut, but at the same time we have seen more than a 10% increase in the number of senior bureaucrats who earn over $100,000 per annum.”  They would like to have better KPIs for management, and implement regular audits.  At the same time, they want to protect whistleblowers.  There’s a definite vibe of ‘we trust the people at the coalface, but not management’ here.

The KAP is big on protecting Australian jobs, and again we have here a well-reasoned set of arguments explaining the ways in which it is complex to balance Australian competitiveness with overseas business with the need to keep our pay and conditions as they should be.

It is clear that foreign owned corporations and big business have a capacity and will to undermine Australian pay and conditions. It is also clear that Australian labour costs are higher than in many competing nations, increasing the economic pressure on margins for goods and services that are subject to international competition…

It is clear that if labour pay and conditions are undermined and more financial pressure is brought to bear on the workforce generally, the economy will implode. Decreasing the rate of pay and/or the rate of employment results in less taxes to government, less money to business, less money to the private sector, resulting an almost immediate recession.

The Katter Party therefore proposes to pursue policies that increase demand for Australian products and support Australian jobs.  Specific proposals include the ethanol in petrol which seems to be the party’s favourite thing ever, but also requiring the Government to purchase only Australian manufactured vehicles, that uniforms purchased on government funded contracts are Australian made and preferably of Australian materials, using Australian steel in construction contracts which receive Government funds… you get the picture.  They also want to reduce the duopolies of companies like Coles and Woolsworths and – oh dear – commission Australian made border protection patrol boats.  Just when it was all sounding so good!

And speaking of border protection, how do we feel about asylum seekers?  Well, the KAP starts by pointing out that we are all immigrants and that even ‘our first Australian migrated here some forty thousand years ago’.  OK then.  They also seem to like the ‘diverse heritage of cultures that has contributed to our proud nation’, and they quote the second verse of the National anthem.  So far, so good.

But “there needs to be a process of immigration that is fair to all who want to come to Australia and at the same time does not undermine the social or economic fabric of the nation”.

And we are worried about boat people, oh yes we are.  They might drown!  They might be terrorists!  There are too many of them!  In fact, we are so worried about them that we seem to have turned into the Liberal Party – the KAP wants to turn back the boats, restrict Australia’s migration zone, provide temporary and conditional visas only, and require refugees to work for the dole – apparently indefinitely.

I am deeply, deeply disappointed.

Here is Katter’s Australian Party quoting Lilia Fernandez:

“The parable of the Good Samaritan challenges us to understand that violence towards those who are the least powerful among us can take the form of legislative acts or of human indifference and disconnection.”

Guess what, KAP? You’ve just failed the challenge.

The last set of policies are around First Australians, and Katter has traditionally been better than expected here, possibly because his electorate does have a reasonably-sized Indigenous population, and so the issues are ones he is more aware of.  Once again, we get quite a thoughtful preamble, though there is a bit of weirdness when he talks about the 1964 decision that resolved equal pay for Aboriginal stockmen resulting in “general unemployment for many stockmen and Aboriginal communities being displaced”.  I had to go and do a bit of research to figure out what this was about – apparently, the same decision that required equal pay for indigenous Australians managed to enshrine various other forms of discrimination, and I surmise that without lower pay making them more appealing to employ, many indigenous stockmen lost their jobs.

Anyway, the KAP wants to work with elders and traditional leaders of indigenous communities to address their socio-economic disadvantage, which sounds like an excellent starting point.  They are against the federal intervention, which they view as discriminatory and disrespectful.  Their most interesting comment is this:

KAP is concerned that Aboriginal people apparently “own” over twenty percent of Australian lands, but still do not enjoy the same title of this land as other Australians. It is essential that all Aboriginal lands are able to be held under individual or collective title deeds. It is essential that Aboriginal people have the opportunity and incentive to operate their land profitably and with purpose.

So they want to “provide inalienable title over Aboriginal lands either collectively or individually to Aboriginal people”, which sounds like an excellent idea, though I do wonder how that would play with farmers – or miners, for that matter.

They want to end the intervention, and give authority to community leaders to establish their own governance.  I have mixed feelings about this one, to be honest.  I think we should have one law for everyone, and while I am absolutely in favour of a certain amount of flexibility and affirmative action to help redress disadvantages, throwing the whole lot out the window seems like a recipe for trouble.

And the KAP want to extend the Community Development Employment Program, and engage Aboriginal people in building and maintenance of housing within their communities.

All in all, I’m not sure how I feel about Katter’s Australian Party.  There’s some very good stuff in there, and the writing and reasoning is much better than I’ve seen on any other website so far, I think.  But then they go all Turn Back The Boats on the refugee issue, which is an instant no-no in my book.  And yet, the policies on Indigenous Australians are so good, and I wish so much that more Australians would read their environment policy, even if I think it comes ten years too late.

It’s almost more disappointing because they have so much potential.  Perhaps in ten years, they will have a brilliant refugee policy, too, but in the meantime, I don’t think I can vote for them.

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6 thoughts on “Victorian Senate Group V: Mad as a Katter?

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks very much for your comment. I’m glad you found my blog reasonably enjoyable – as you probably gathered, I’m racing through all the minor parties at great speed, and don’t always manage to get the depth I would like into these posts, though I think I did put the energy and climate policies together… I just went into more depth on the climate part than the energy part because to me that was more interesting! I’ll definitely have a look at those clips. I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t get back to editing this post in the light of them – it’s simply a matter of having enough time at this point.

      Congratulations again on a very well-written website, by the way. It’s one of the most impressive sites I’ve looked at, just because of the clarity and logic in the way policies are explained and justified. One of the nice things about writing all of these posts is finding things in common with parties I wouldn’t expect to agree with on very much, and particularly getting more of a sense of what’s going on behind the big hat (or equivalent brand, though I don’t think anyone has quite the same brand as Katter does).

      Best wishes,

      Catherine

  1. Pingback: My personal How to Vote Card… | Cate Speaks

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