Since the election, there have been a lot of words in print, on radio and television dedicated to analysing the performance of Labor during their campaign.
Bob Katter has made his political name by standing up for his constituents…But ignoring the most pressing issue of our times is stupid.
Everyone has an opinion and I’ve heard all of them: Calling the election so soon after knifing Rudd in the back meant the memory of Gillard as a backstabber was fresh in everyone’s mind.
The Queenslanders, upset that one of their own had been done in by a woman from Victoria of all places, punished Labor by throwing them out of 14 seats in that state.
And not just any woman. Australians, it’s been argued, especially those from conservative electorates, were not going to vote for an unmarried woman, with a dodgy boyfriend, who has no children, doesn’t believe in God and is a republican. “Those bloody Queenslanders,” my father said on the phone from Greece the night after the election. “That’s where we always have problems.”
But is it so simple? While it might give us southern state progressives some superficial comfort in bashing the rednecks in Queensland, the truth of the matter is that the Coalition had a swing towards them of 1.7%. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of their leader or their policies.
What they are most likely saying by voting the way they did is: We don’t like you Labor, because you’ve run a shocking campaign and we only have one other choice, but we don’t really like them either. Thus our hung parliament which has suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, three rural independents who at some time have all deserted the National party for abandoning their bush by embracing economic rationalism. A colleague of mine described Bob Katter as an old fashioned ‘agrarian socialist.’
I’m not sure about that, but he’s right about one thing: Katter is certainly old fashioned.
Of all the things said and done since the election, surely the most memorable quote is his response when asked his view on gay marriage. “There are no gays in my electorate,” he said with a certainty and finality that reminds us of those times when these issues were kept firmly locked in the closet so we wouldn’t have to know or deal with them.
How does he know? Did he door knock every house in his electorate and ask? Katter who represents the third largest electorate in Australia, claims Joh Bjelke Peterson as his political hero and thinks Nicholas Stern, the eminent economist who rang the warning bells on doing nothing about climate change, is a ‘lightweight.’
Since being thrust into centre stage, we have all been forced to listen to his views delivered with the colour and bluster of John Wayne, sweeping aside anything not in his realm of interest as ‘rubbish’. While we might listen to his homilies with some nostalgic affection and yearning for the days when politicians had some personality they weren’t afraid to express, and we’re definitely in for some laughs, climate change is no laughing matter.
Anyone who jokes about the effects of climate change would do well to read the Stern Review, published four years ago, which presents a forceful argument for action on climate change. The economy versus environment argument is redundant according to Stern and acting on climate change, he argues is paramount for the economy.
In a speech to the National Press club this week, Stern said that Australia risked being left behind in a global economy if it did not tackle climate change and adopt renewable energy and clean technology.
Bob Katter has made his political name by standing up for his constituents and he is lauded as a local hero for doing so, but ignoring the most pressing issue of our times is stupid. Global warming left unchecked will have a devastating effect on people in his electorate who make a living off the land.
Katter may want to dance on a hot tin roof that’s getting hotter, but I’m not sure in the long run, that they’ll want to join him.
Jeana Vithoulkas is a freelance journalist and published author.