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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
Conduct of the 2013 federal election and matters related thereto
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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
Tillem, Sen Mehmet
Faulkner, Sen John
Griffin, Alan, MP
Gray, Gary, MP
Macdonald, Sen Ian
Katter, Bob, MP
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Content WindowJoint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters - 07/05/2014 - Conduct of the 2013 federal election and matters related thereto
KATTER, The Hon. Robert Carl, Member for Kennedy, Commonwealth Parliament
CHAIR: I would like to welcome our next witness, the member for Kennedy. I am required to remind you that the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, although the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. Thank you for being with us today. I invite you to make a brief opening statement and then we will proceed with some questions.
Mr Katter: I am very rare in the Australian firmament. As far as I can make out, all my forebears were here in the 1870s, but they have been heavily involved in politics since the 1890s. My great-grandad is in the history books: he gave £3,000 to the strike fund in 1894, which is one million dollars in today's money. So I have a view on democracy in this country, handed down through my family for 120 or 130 years. I think committee members are well-educated in the sense that you know a little bit about history; maybe a lot about history. But democracy really was born when Walpole decided to appoint George I as the King of England, whose qualifications for office were that he was certifiably insane and could not speak a single word of English—a absolutely perfect choice for the job! So the monarchy was no more from that point forward. The monarchy had ceased to exist. To quote—I am desperately trying to remember his name—the famous historian: 'with the death of the monarchy, the bulwark of protection for the people against the untrammelled rapaciousness of the mercantile classes was removed'. He saw monarchy as a form of protection for the ordinary people.
The other two people that saw that very clearly were Alexis de Tocqueville, a major commentator—most of the constitutions in the world are written on the basis of de Tocqueville's work—and John Stuart Mill, whose most famous book On Liberty constantly refers to de Tocqueville. The point that is continuously made is that democracy is not a fair system—it is not a just system; it is a system that delivers the will of the majority. And the will of the majority may be evil, as it was in Germany in the 1930s. There was no doubt that Hitler did get a majority of the vote—that the majority of people wanted to vote for him. Well, there were six million Jewish people murdered as a result of the will of the majority. Now they clearly foresaw that in America, and their democracy was written by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, two of the finest minds of the last two or three hundred years. Ours was put in place by a person who do not pay his debts, twice, and who was bankrupted twice because of that. He had a disgraceful private life. He was an unapologetic sectarian bigot and his only motivating force was a towering hubris. That was in sharp contrast to Thomas Jefferson—our constitution was put together by a bloke who just want to say he was the father of Federation.
So, the tyranny of majority runs amok. I am a person who comes from a particular geographic area, where my family has lived for 130 years—North Queensland. It is not that the government in Brisbane, whether it is ALP or LNP, hate North Queensland, it is not that they have any antagonism towards us; it is just that they want to please the majority, and the majority is in the south-east corner. I do not want to make political statements here, and you would rightly cut me short if I did. To illustrate my point about the tyranny of the majority, we have only, to my knowledge, seven overpasses in North Queensland. They were all delivered by the federal government, through Peter Lindsay, me and whoever was the member for Mackay at the time. The federal government, at a distance, through roads funding, gave us seven overpasses; the state government has given us none at all. In Brisbane, at the Bowen intersection, next to the Sunday Mail, there are seven overpasses. Two of them are overpasses over overpasses. And that is just at one intersection. They announced $5,000 million for a new tunnel in Brisbane, and that will bring the length of tunnels in Brisbane to 23 kilometres. In Sydney they have only 14 kilometres of tunnels. Sydney has a population of around five million while Brisbane has a population of a little over 1.2 million. That is the tyranny of the majority operating—not because the people are tyrannical; it is just because they want to please the majority.
You need a system of checks and balances. In the American system, as you are well aware, the executive is completely separate from the legislative arm. They are entirely separate entities, whereas our executive is the child of the legislature. To illustrate my point, communism in the world was destroyed—if you had to limit it down to people, I suppose you could say Gorbachev, you could say the Catholic Pope in Rome, you could say the bloke in Poland but probably most of all it was Charlie Wilson in Afghanistan. He was a congressman. In America, the Congress has the right to administer money, and he secured US$4,000 million annually for the fighters in Afghanistan. They were allocated about $150 million before Charlie Wilson came along and decided to take it up as a cause. In America, an individual in the legislature can change the course of history. Legislators and senators do not have that power in Australia—you have this unitary system without that system of checks and balances. The American system is a two-party system but it is constituency based. Charlie Wilson had to sell the idea of giving $4,000 million to the fighters in Afghanistan to all of the Democrats in his constituency, because every four years or whatever it is he had to run in what is called a primary. It may not be contested, but it is there—anyone can run against him for the Democrat nomination.
CHAIR: I think he passed away just a couple of years ago.
Mr Katter: We are different from America but we do have a constituency-based system. Look at the ethanol issue. The 12 oil-producing states voted against ethanol and everyone else voted for it. It is a good thing to do. People are dying that do not have to die. The big report on health came out from California and everyone realised that there were people dying who did not have to die, so they all voted for ethanol—all except the oil-producing states, who voted along constituency lines, not party lines. My experience of the party system, which I was in for about 32 or 33 years, was that all I had to do was keep about 12 people happy—three or four of the state executive and three or four of the Kennedy electoral council; that was the way it was in the National Party—and run around and remember people names and go to all the fetes. The famous Labor politician Bill Hayden said that if you want a future in politics, look forward to 10,000 fetes worse than death, which was not a bad quote.
CHAIR: Sorry to cut you off. I am just very conscious of time because we have got until 11.15 am. I know there are a number of questions and we want to get your insights into a few issues, and you have covered a number of things broadly. Just briefly: having heard all that, are you advocating a different voting system or are you just saying it is what it is?
Mr Katter: There are moves in the state parliament and in the federal parliament to eliminate the small parties. I read in the media those advertisements, which I have not got, but I do not want to take up time.
CHAIR: Why don't we let Therese find them and I will perhaps jump to a separate—
Mr Katter: But there is a move to eliminate the small parties. If you have only got two institutions that you have to ingratiate yourself to or try to influence, such as the oil companies in keeping ethanol out—I cannot help but use these examples; I am not trying to make a political point, Mr Chairman—that is an easy thing to do. So it is easy to keep ethanol out, which is the only lifesaver we have for the sugar industry, and maybe the grain and cattle industry as well. If there were six or seven it would be infinitely harder to influence that judgement. Also, if there is no right for small minorities to be represented in the parliament, then the tyranny of majority gets infinitely worse than it is now. Bad as it is now, it will become infinitely worse.
CHAIR: Are you advocating any changes to the voting system?
Mr Katter: What I am advocating is no changes that will further denigrate the power of small parties to be able to be represented. If you get a few ratbags—well, I could put up a fair case that I would regard a lot of what has been done by the major parties as ratbaggery as well. If you say that motorcar lovers are not getting a fair go and you feel so strongly about it that you want to put someone in the Senate, that is your entitlement. That is what democracy should be about. That was what Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill and all these people talked about—
CHAIR: Could I jump right in there? I do not think anyone would contest the right of anyone to form a party and run for election, but would you concede at all that the current electoral system distorts the will of some voters in terms of how the group voting tickets work and preferences below the line? You can understand, in the example you gave, the public being a bit baffled at a candidate that got 0.51 per cent of the primary vote being catapulted into the Senate based on a whole lot of preference deals that they had no practical concept of being able to understand or comprehend.
Mr Katter: I was on the periphery of our Senate deals—if you call them deals—but my understanding of it is that they were well aware of who they were giving their preferences to. A lot of the Christian groups were not giving their preferences to other Christian groups.
CHAIR: I am talking about the voters.
Mr Katter: I know what you are saying, but the voter is entitled to say, 'I want representation'.
CHAIR: In your case, you are not a hidden entity. I think that is the one thing we can all agree on. You campaign and you make your views known—
Mr Katter : They know who they are voting for and who they are voting against.
CHAIR: That is right. That is one thing we can all agree on. But you would have to agree, notwithstanding, that the public rightly think it is a nonsense when they get handed a ballot paper that is a metre long, together with a magnified sheet to complete because of the forest of parties, some of which, not all, but some of which are designed to harvest preferences. Would you concede that point?
Mr Katter : You would know that better than me. I am not aware of that. You would know that better than me and I defer to your judgement rather than my own. But, as Churchill famously said, 'Democracy is not a good form of government; the only thing that can be said about it is that it is better than any alternative form.' All I could say to you is that this is not a good system but that it is better than any other form that has been offered up. But when you say small parties, no, the money you get for a vote has been taken away in Queensland—that has been proposed by the state government. So if you are a small party, you get no money for your votes; if you are a big party, you do. That is pretty clear cut. Travel allowances have been cut dramatically. Obviously that hits the party whose electorates are huge in the area—namely, our three members of parliament. In fact, there are only four huge electorate in Queensland state wise. For three of them the expense allowance is taken out. My son represents an area bigger than I do and he has no expense allowance and I have got $100,000 or something like that, maybe considerably more than that.
CHAIR: Just while we are on that—and this will be my final question, because I want to give others a go for the next 30 minutes or so—you have mentioned the size of the electorate. That is obviously why we are here. You are well aware of what the committee does. It travels around the country. Of course, we go to the capital cities but I was determined that we not only go to some regional areas but a remote location.
Mr Katter : We are very appreciative, Chair.
CHAIR: Particularly in the wake of what can only be described, and as we have regularly, the Western Australian lost votes debacle. We are particularly interested in vote security, transport, storage—all those sorts of issues that are big threats if they are not handled right, as we saw in Western Australia. We are very conscious that in larger electorates—or, in your case, a gigantic electorate where you have so many booths, more than 100, and votes being transported over such long distances—those vulnerabilities are even larger. So we wanted to get your view on how things have run, whether things can run better in the future.
Mr Katter : The major reason, I suppose, why I am here—why I originally put my name down—was because of the last election in Kennedy. The Liberal Party in that election put out six flyers in the last two weeks that 'A vote for Katter is a vote for Labor'. I did logic at school and got 100 per cent in it, but even if I hadn't—I could be a brainless idiot and figure it out. How could a vote for Katter be vote for Labor? If I had pledged my vote to the Labor Party, if I was elected. But the only historical record was that I voted the other way actually. When there was a hung parliament, I gave my vote on the 20 points following my 20 points. The Liberal Party got more ticks so in fact I supported the Liberals. In my voting pattern, technically, I voted more times with the Liberal Party for reasons—
CHAIR: I remember it well. I do not want to be political, either, Mr Katter. My memory is you also gave a much shorter speech than Mr Oakeshott.
Mr Katter : Six postal advertisements went out and it was continuous on the radio and continuous on the television. I counted six on one television channel in the space of two hours. Those advertisements never wavered in saying that. That, Chair, is just a flagrant lie.
CHAIR: If you want to get into that, that is fine, but I do want to get from you before 11.15. As a colleague of ours, we are as flexible as we can be, but there is a limit. We do want to get from you—even if you just say it is not an issue—some evidence about whether you are happy about the AEC's conduct of elections in Kennedy; whether you see any areas for improvement in terms of transportation of ballots, how the election is conducted on polling day and how it is conducted in the pre-polls; and whether there are any other areas you think there could be some improvements, particularly given the Western Australia situation and particularly given that when a few of us on this committee were in the electorate of Maranoa we heard there had been problems with postal votes not being delivered. I really want to get some evidence on that.
Mr Katter : There is no such thing as a perfect system. I could bring up a lot of issues, but they are fairly petty. You will never get a perfect system. Nothing is leaping out to me. Nothing leapt out at me during the time I spent preparing to come in here. But I do need to canvass this issue. Section 329(1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act says:
A person shall not, during the relevant period in relation to an election under this Act, print, publish or distribute … any matter or thing that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote.
My proof for this is that all of the newspapers in North Queensland are owned by the Murdoch press. A million people live in North Queensland, and we have 13 major papers. The Mount Isa paper is not owned by the Murdoch press, but all of the others are. The Murdoch press refused to take that advertisement in the last three days because their counsel's advice was that it was actionable. Clearly, it was deceitful—and it was actionable. Every single advertisement—on the television they sent out things from Tony Abbott—just sent that one message, and it was a lie, and it was enormously effective. At the start of the campaign we were on 45 per cent. That was the polling in the Liberal Party, not our polling, but our polling indicated much the same figure. As this bit more and more successfully—it was a strategically brilliant campaign—and as it worked more and more deeply and effectively, more and more votes slipped away.
To quote Brian Loughnane on the front of The Australian, it is always easy to be wise after the event. They said, 'Why did you spend $10 million on a little tiny party like them, and then you let Farmer get away?' His answer was that at the time the election was called—it is all right to be smart after the event—they were on four or five seats. They looked like winning four or five seats and two or three senators. And they could not allow that to happen. That was his justification for spending $10 million. It was telling a lie—a flagrant, outright lie.
The AEC has a responsibility to act in that situation. The Murdoch press acted responsibly. They got a QC's opinion—or SCs, as they call them now—in Sydney, and the SC's opinion was that it was actionable. They did not say they were going to win; they just said it was actionable. The fact that the AEC can stand by and watch that occur and not do anything about it is a reflection upon the system, and a reflection that does not give an outcome. If you have the most money and you can tell the most lies, then you can win the next election. That may have bitten our little party this election; it might bite your party next election.
CHAIR: I will open it up for questions. My silence for the next 25 minutes is to give the others a go.
Senator TILLEM: In relation to the inquiry that this committee is holding post election, the bit that you have raised which is directly relevant is section 329(1). I presume there are remedies that are available to candidates.
Mr Katter : The legal process would not have seen us able to stop that advertising before the election. It started the third week out, and we would not have had time to take legal remedies.
Senator TILLEM: Remedies in terms of what, under the act, you can apply to the AEC to do? Do you think there is a gap in the legislation there?
Mr Katter: Is there a gap in the legislation? No. The legislation is quite clear-cut. The legislation could not be more—
Senator TILLEM: Timely remedies.
Mr Katter: Yes, if we were able to fast-track our senior counsel opinion that the matter was actionable, we could have issued an injunction in that third week before the election. But the legal process did not allow for that speed of action. That was the advice that we got. So, yes, there needs to be a short-circuiting of the legal action. It is a good question that you ask, Senator.
Senator TILLEM: People obviously have the right to the common law, but would it be your view that this committee should look at a process or an amendment to the legislation or the regulations that provides—
Mr Katter: You should not have to go to a writ of mandamus or an injunction. It should have just gone as request to the AEC, and they would look at it and make a determination. There should be a quasi-judicial body in there, because these people would just get to make a call. This is not the first time it has happened; I can give you a hundred examples of this. This just happens to be the most blatant one I have seen, and it also is very effective. A lot of the other times it has not been so effective.
The ALP put out a huge thing saying, 'To make your vote effective, you must put 1 and fill in no other squares.' If you had a microscope, you could see, 'Authorised by the ALP,' at the bottom of it, but when you walked into the booth it was enormously effective—well, I think it was enormously effective. At that election there were no preferences. It was optional preferential voting, and everyone thought they just had to put 1 in the square.
CHAIR: Are you talking about a state election?
Mr Katter: This was a state election.
Senator FAULKNER: Mr Katter, if I had to distil what you are saying to us, I think I would say that you are making a plea to the committee that there be no changes to the Commonwealth electoral law that would affect the electability or viability of small parties. Is that a fair—
Mr Katter: The ability of small groupings of people to express themselves in the electoral system.
Senator FAULKNER: So that is a fair comment for me to make?
Mr Katter: Yes, absolutely.
Senator FAULKNER: Can I say to you that a key role of this committee as it goes about its work assessing the 2013 federal election campaign relates to the voting system and suggestions of manipulation of the Senate voting system by minor or micro parties. We are treating that very seriously indeed. What I would like to ask you in relation to the Senate voting system—I am deliberately quarantining this question to the Senate voting system—is whether, from your perspective or that of the small political party that you represent, there are any changes to the Senate voting system, given the experience of the last election, that you would support or would like to see enacted in federal electoral legislation.
Mr Katter: The public out there is enormously cynical and hostile towards government in Australia in general. At every election now, 20 per cent of the electorate will not vote for the mainstream parties, and it is just a way of getting at the politicians. We have fallen from No. 3 to No. 27 in the respect of the public for your profession or your calling in life.
Senator FAULKNER: Our profession and our calling in life.
Mr Katter : Why is that? This initiative is being seen as a cynical initiative to extinguish the right of small groups to express themselves in the polling. If you make those decisions to eliminate the smaller entities and the voice of the people, it will be seen as just another cynical move by the mainstream parties to further consolidate their position of power. So we do not have a one-party system in Australia; we have a two-party system—but we are not going to have a three- or four-party system. That is not going to happen. That is the way that people out there view it. If you make a decision along those lines, I am sure that is the way it will be seen and, quite frankly, that is the way I will see it.
I take your point that you end up at times with some ridiculous outcomes and maybe that was not exactly what the people meant when they voted. I am damn sure there are a lot of people out there who do not like the free market system and yet, when they vote for the mainstream parties, that is what they get. You are saying: are people led astray? Yes, of course they are. If you take a vote out there on whether they believe in protectionism, 82 per cent of them say they do, but when they go to vote they do not express that at the ballot box. Please, I am not making a political point; I am just trying to illustrate that there is a minority viewpoint that should be taken into account. The minority viewpoint has to be allowed to be taken into account. I go back to Churchill's statement that it is not a good system; it is just better than any other one that we have as an alternative.
Senator FAULKNER: You are the leader of one of Australia's small political parties—I think that is fair to say.
Mr Katter : Yes.
Senator FAULKNER: Not only that, you have had a very long career in both the Queensland parliament and, of course, the federal parliament. As a result of your answer to my earlier question, I want to ask you this: are you concerned, given that status, about the serious suggestions of the gaming of Senate preferences, the manipulation of Senate votes, the harvesting of preferences and the like by individuals and groups who, it is said, have turned this into an art form? Is that practice—that practice—of any concern to you or your party?
Mr Katter : Obviously it is because we did not get the preferences. Speaking from a self-interest point of view, we were not able to garner those preferences, but I have not seen any viable alternative in the media or proposed by anyone in the upper house or the lower house in any of the states that would fill me with confidence that there is a way of restraining the monster without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. That is a very mixed metaphor—I apologise to the committee—but you understand where I am going with it. Any proposal you bring forward will be seen by the public, rightfully, I think, as an endeavour to squash out the minority point of view. I represent two groups that are very much minority groups and very much oppressed minority groups: the agricultural group, maybe the most oppressed minority group in this country, and the first Australians. The first Australians are not allowed to have a title deed; they cannot own their own home. Twenty five per cent of Australia is supposed to be owned by them; they cannot get a title deed to own their own home. Mal Brough made a short and brief endeavour in this respect. In Queensland I most certainly did it. We got nearly 1,000 title deeds out. In the time I had that was the best we could do, but except for those two exceptions—
Mr GRIFFIN: We are just conscious of the time. We do not have very long.
Mr Katter : minority groups are gone.
Mr GRIFFIN: I have a few questions which will hopefully be relatively quick. I note that Katter's Australian Party is registered in Queensland. Do you have any concerns about the rigour of the Queensland registration process? Are you happy with that? Do you think it gives minor parties the opportunity to contest?
Mr Katter: I would say that it cost us about $300,000 in legal to jump over all the hurdles that we were supposed to jump over, and we fell on one of them. We had a hundred hurdles and we fell on one of them and it was filling out a form. What happened was that we were not allowed to use our name in the election. We failed at one of those. We thought we had spent all this money. We got all these legal people in to go over it and we still made a mistake. So the number of barriers that have been put up for the formation of small parties is so horrific that it would be very hard to see a small party starting off in Queensland.
Mr GRIFFIN: So you are worried about that:
Mr Katter: We lost eight per cent of the vote by the way. Exit polling: we got 11½ per cent of the state election. It said that we lost eight per cent, because we did not have a name. Our candidates were running effectively as independents.
Mr GRIFFIN: Do you believe people should be able to be a member of more than one political party?
Mr Katter: I don't know. I haven't thought about that one to give an honest answer. I don't know.
Mr GRIFFIN: Do you think that someone should be able to be the registered officer of two or three different political parties?
CHAIR: Imagine you running two or three different political parties.
Mr Katter: I honestly do not know. I haven't thought about it, Alan, and I do not like answering questions that I haven't thought about.
Mr GRIFFIN: That is fair enough. In terms of the philosophy around political parties and how that plays out in relation to preference negotiations and preference deals, do you think that parties who represent a particular set of issues, ideals or a philosophy should actually preference according to that philosophy as best they can? Working off the premise that if you have an understanding in the community about what you stand for and therefore you would reasonably expect that those people who seek to vote for you are seeking to support those views, do you think parties should then be consistent around the question of how they then allocate their preferences?
Mr Katter: Yes, I do, obviously, but how you would enforce that? I have been a legislator for forty-odd years and, having been a minister, where I have had to draw up my own legislation and also there was responsibility to government. Old Joe was going to Canberra, and Billy Gunn and I were running in Queensland, so I had responsibility for running a government. It is very hard to draw up legislation that would deliver that quite righteous objective.
Mr GRIFFIN: I agree and I guess the question is more at the minor party level. The circumstances are the choices you will be making will often not be about the question of what a government is doing from a administrative point of view but making decisions around actual options governments might be doing, if that makes sense.
Mr Katter: Alan, I can see clearly where you are going and I would agree with you very strongly. My answer as to how you would draft legislation: I would not like to be trying to draft the legislation to deliver on that requirement. Obviously, it is a requirement that should be there. If you can dream up a way of doing it, I would back you strongly but I can't think of one.
Mr GRIFFIN: What is your view on optional preferential voting?
Mr Katter: It does not work at all. There are nearly 20 members of parliament in Queensland where clearly 60 per cent of the people in Queensland did not want them there. They voted for us or they voted for the ALP, and in those seats they would never have given agreeable to a Liberal to represent them. That would not have been possible. With Palmer out there that will be even truer in the electoral system, so you will have a lot of electorates where the vast majority of people do not remotely want to be represented by a Labor or a Liberal person, and yet they will get elected because of the optional preferential. It does not work. People do not fill out the squares.
Mr GRAY: Thank you. I thank you for the quality of your evidence. Did you carry out the preference negotiations for the Katter party for senate preference flows?
Mr Katter: In a little tiny way. If you say there are 100 units of negotiation, I negotiated on about three units of the hundred units. They might have been important units but they were very small.
Mr GRAY : And where did your effective preferences go in the Senate?
Mr Katter : To answer your question quickly: in six of the seven states it was decided that those preferences would go to Liberal over Labor. That was the decision that the state executive made. In Queensland it was decided the other way, for reasons I do not want to bore you or the committee with.
Mr GRAY : Were those decisions made by a negotiating committee of your party, or by yourself?
Mr Katter : By a negotiating committee of the party. The inner executive, if you like, of the party made those decisions.
Mr GRAY : And at that time what was your view of the tactics being deployed by some of the microparties that receive much, much smaller votes than your party to harvest those preferences?
Mr Katter : In one or two cases it was absolutely deplorable. They touted themselves as 'social moralists' on issues like abortion, homosexuality and those sorts of issues. And yet when it came to actually allocating preferences, they allocated them to the exact opposite position to what they were telling the people. There was an element of ginormous hypocrisy, and that would be a view reflected by the Australian Christians party as well as myself.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Mr Katter, do you think that people in Queensland who voted for your party in the Senate understood that their preferences, once yours were exhausted, would go to the Labor Party before the LNP?
Mr Katter : I will answer your question this way, Senator: I do not think that in Queensland, whoever they voted for, that they would have any definite idea of which way those preferences would flow. The fact that we had got a magnificent deal with the cyclone money and on the transmission line out here to Mt Isa meant they had done some really wonderful things for us, and that was well known in the public arena. It should have also been well known that when I had the hung parliament, my 20 points led me to back the Liberals. So they would have known both of those factors.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: We were talking about the Senate preferences earlier, but you are saying that you do not think the people who voted for your party in the Senate in Queensland realised you were preferencing Labor in front of the LNP?
Mr Katter : I did not say that at all, Senator. Do not put words into my mouth.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: What did you say?
Mr Katter : What I said was that every person who voted for a party in the Senate—whatever that party is—would not be entirely cognisant of where those preferences would end up. That is what I said. And I said that as far as my personal persona went, there was no secret of my friendship with Kevin Rudd, and it was also no secret—and surely everyone in the country would have known—that I had backed the Liberal Party and not the Labor Party in the hung parliament.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you think it was legitimate for it to be pointed out that in the Senate your party was preferencing Labor before it was preferencing the LNP?
Mr Katter : I would say 100 per cent legitimate. That was not what was done.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Thanks.
Mr Katter : No, Senator—that was not what was done. That did not say there were preferences in one state, but in six other states they went to the Liberals. That is not what was said.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: That was published in Queensland with—
Mr Katter : That went all over Australia.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Oh did it?
Mr Katter : That was the advertisement that went all over Australia, my friend, and it hurt us in Victoria and it hurt us in New South Wales and it most certainly hurt us in Queensland. And if it is one out of seven, then that is—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So you think it is legitimate for the electors to be told that, in the Senate, voting for you meant that your preferences would go to Labor before Liberal?
Mr Katter : If they had said 'in the Senate'. In the House of Representatives you people, maybe undeservedly—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: So if we had said 'the Senate', you would be happy?
Mr Katter : got the majority of the preferences there as well.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Okay—that is all I have, Mr Chairman. But just for the record, seeing this is on the record and Mr Katter has made a number of allegations, can I just indicate—
Mr Katter : The senator was talking while I was talking. Either I answer his question or I do not, but he does not talk while I am talking! He asks the question, and then talks himself in answer to his own question.
CHAIR: Mr Katter, I am not hard of hearing! You are three metres away and you have a big microphone in front of you.
Mr Katter : I am trying to talk over him.
CHAIR: I know you are, but the clarity of your argument does not improve with the volume. We will hear from Senator Macdonald and then we will hear from you. Then we will close the hearing and you are always welcome to resume this hearing in Canberra at any time.
Mr Katter: Mr Chairman, no. I was asked a question. I endeavoured to answer it and the senator kept speaking while I was speaking.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Answer it, then.
CHAIR: Sorry, I am going to be quite blunt here. The rest of the members of the committee would not have a clue what you were saying because you were both talking. Could you ask the question again, Senator Macdonald. Then we would ask you to answer it and then we are going to adjourn the hearing because we already waited an additional half an hour to hear from you.
Mr Katter: No, that is not correct. I was given the time 10.30. You rang up and said you wanted to change it and I said I had a person driving 300 kilometres to see me and I would not be able to change it.
CHAIR: Let's not take up the last minutes. Senator Macdonald, we have about a minute left. Can you ask the question?
Senator IAN MACDONALD: I repeat the question: do you think it was legitimate for those Queensland electors who voted for your party in the Senate to be aware that your preferences went to the Labor Party before the LNP? Do you think it was legitimate to let those voters know?
Mr Katter: If that had said that, it was entirely legitimate.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: You think it was legitimate.
Mr Katter: Entirely legitimate. But it said that in the knowledge that in the vast bulk of the individual seats the Liberals got the preferences, and in the vast bulk of the states the Liberals got the preferences. So to say that is a flagrant lie and an outrageous lie. That was decided by a senior counsel in Sydney, not by me, my friend.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: In the marginal seats in Queensland, your party did not preference the LNP. You had an open ticket, or a two-sided ticket—one for Labor and one for the LNP. So your comment that you preferenced the LNP is simply not correct.
Mr Katter: Mr Chairman, that comment is not correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I finish?
Mr Katter: That comment is a matter of public record and it is not correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I finish? There have been some allegations made by this witness about the party of which I am a member. I do not want to enter into it—it is not a matter for this committee to enter into—but I simply put on the record, because this is all on the record, that the LNP would totally reject the allegations made by Mr Katter.
CHAIR: As with all evidence, people have a right to make their statements and submissions. On that point, thank you for your attendance here today in Mount Isa.
Mr Katter: Mr Chairman, we very much appreciate your travelling all this way to give us a chance to have a say in our own homeland. Thank you very much.
Resolved that these proceedings be published.
Committee adjourned at 11:17