Bob Katter is doubtless one of the most open and sincere members of federal parliament (along with the other independent MPs). As everyone knows, such qualities are easily discarded by career politicians as they manoeuvre their way around the fickle whims of the electorate, the propaganda of special interest groups and the machinations of their adversaries (both inside and outside their party).
Katter’s basic problem, however, is that he’s bonkers. He’s not stupid by any means, but he does appear to be cocooned in a bubble universe in which concerns like economics and the environment are but a faint distorted glimmer of background radiation.
The Katterverse, refreshingly, does not easily fall into the left-right paradigm. You can verify this by perusing his new Australia Party’s policies. Bob wants government economic intervention like there was no tomorrow, but opposes the “nanny state”1. He doesn’t care one way or the other about Tony Abbott’s boat-arrivals cataclysm, but opposes the carbon tax (and presumably, by extension, any form of carbon pricing).
Conversely, and perhaps unfortunately for Katter, this means that anyone mired in realpolitik isn’t going to be easily talked around to his point of view. The left-right spectrum is one of my pet hates2, but it does at least broadly cover the range of plausible economic policies. You can opt for well-funded government services so long as you’re prepared for high taxation, or you can choose low-taxation so long as you don’t expect much government help. Katter, on the other hand, represents the archetypal selfish voter; he wants the government to give everything and take nothing, thinking perhaps (as many voters must do) that the only thing standing in the way of such impossible utopia is pig-headed political intransigence. This disconnect doesn’t matter so much when you’re a Katter-style “maverick independent”, but if you actually want a say in government policy, the world “compromise” is going to have to cross your lips more than a few times.
- “Opposing the nanny state”, I find, is often a euphemism for “Why the hell should I be prevented from endangering the public?” [↩]
- It seems spurious and disingenuous to use “left” and “right” in reference to non-economic issues, where labels like “libertarian”, “environmentalist”, “religious”, “secular”, etc. are surely far more descriptive and less open to misinterpretation and rhetorical abuse. [↩]