Article – Katter deal boosts Labor's rural chances

17 August 2013
Sarah Elks, John Ferguson
The Australian
LABOR’S chances in Queensland have improved after a preference swap with Bob Katter in four rural seats, in return for backing Katter’s Australian Party above the Greens in the battleground state’s Senate race.
KAP negotiators confirmed to The Weekend Australian last night that the party would trade preferences with the ALP in the Coalition-held electorates of Hinkler, Herbert and Flynn, as well as Labor’s Capricornia.
The news came as the Greens and Labor were in heated negotiations to stitch together a workable deal in the Senate and the lower house in a series of states. But the ALP is debating whether to offer the minor party a 2010-style national swap of preferences, sources said. They said the Greens were “in meltdown” trying to accommodate threatened senators and lowerhouse Victorian MP Adam Bandt.
The deadline for Senate preference deals is today but pre-polling for the September 7 election will begin next week, forcing parties to finalise their how-to-vote cards in time for printing.
Under the Queensland deal, the KAP will give its first preferences to Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party and other minor parties, such as Family First. In most Queensland seats, the KAP will then direct preferences to the Liberal National Party ahead of Labor, but the Katter party’s preferences are expected to be vital in the four seats in which it’s backing the ALP.
The KAP is expected to poll well in central and north Queensland in electorates where the old One Nation had a substantial presence, and all four seats fall into this category.
In addition, they are all seats where mining is the major industry, and Mr Katter has a strong following among miners.
But the ALP-KAP deal will have the practical effect of maximising the chances of a Senate position for the KAP’s James Blundell at the expense of the Greens’ Adam Stone.
Greens leader Christine Milne warned Kevin Rudd that the Senate preference deal in Queensland could backfire on Labor and deliver the upper house to the Coalition if it won on September 7.
She suggested the Prime Minister’s development package, which involves cutting the company tax rate in the Northern Territory and simplifying foreign-investment rules, was part of his effort to woo Mr Katter.
“Coincidentally, Kevin Rudd had a vision for the north . . . that happens to replicate Gina Rinehart’s vision, Tony Abbott’s vision and Bob Katter’s vision. Extraordinary, that,” she said.
Mr Rudd described Mr Katter as “unique”, adding: “You’ve got to understand Queensland to understand Bob’s uniqueness.
“Bob, for reasons which many of you may find odd, has been a longstanding friend of mine.” The KAP is also considering a preference swap with Labor in do-or-die western Sydney seats.
In NSW, independent MP Craig Thomson has suggested he could split his preferences, throwing open the race for Dobell.
In Victoria, Labor will preference the Liberals in the rural seat of Mallee and preference a key independent to defeat Abbott ally Sophie Mirabella.
Courtesy of The Australian